PSALM 116 TALK: HALLELUJAH – FOR GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS AND SAVES US

PSALM 116 TALK: HALLELUJAH – FOR GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS AND SAVES US

(A very personal Psalm written by a man who called out to God with a desperate prayer for help as he seemed to face certain death but who found that God hears his prayers and saved him. His testimony gives us hope and encouragement in our prayers that the same God the Psalmist prayed to also hears our prayers and helps and saves us).

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

In my study of this Psalm, Psalm 116 I read and watched some other preachers seek to open up this Psalm and in that research I came across a sermon illustration for this Psalm that I want to borrow for my talk because it is so good.

The illustration comes from a popular black American preacher named Tony Evans from Texas USA who spoke of being in a elevator in a high rise building that one day got stuck between floors high up in the building. He was in the elevator with a number of people who reacted in all sorts of ways. Some, he said yelled out loudly and they hoped someone would hear them and do something to get the elevator going again.

Some of the people beat the walls of the elevator and a couple just fell to the floor weeping with fear. Then Evans just made his way to the front of the elevator and opened the door of a little box on the wall and calmly pulled out the phone in the box and spoke to the emergency operator and asked for help to be rescued from the elevator he was trapped in.

Evans then goes on to explain that we all will get stuck in difficult and even uncomfortable situations in life and what we know and believe will determine what we do in those situations. Some will kick and yell and even scream while others will fall in a crying heap on the floor paralysed by fear and despair.

The Christian however has a powerful God they can call upon and that God is non – other than the God who made this world and the universe who has unlimited power and resources to help us. I like the Australian hit song of the 1960’s by a an Australian aboriginal singer named Jimmy Little called “Telephone to Glory” which was written by a man named Fredrick . M. Lehman in 1919 here is the first verse and chorus of that song,

Central’s never “busy,” always on the line;
You may hear from heaven almost any time;
’Tis a royal service, free for one and all;
When you get in trouble, give this royal line a call.

Refrain:

Telephone to glory, oh, what joy divine!
I can feel the current moving on the line,
Built by God the Father for His loved and own,
We may talk to Jesus through this royal telephone.

Psalm 116 is according to another sermon I read on this Psalm is a personal testimony of a man
who for some reason came very close to death either through sickness or through the attacks of
his enemies and in that situation he used the Royal Telephone, prayer to the God of the bible to get
help and he got help in a wonderful way and that experience caused him to have greater
confidence in God which we read particularly in verse 1,

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to
me, I will call on him as long as I live”.

He tells us many things about prayer and the God who listens and answers it and he longs to also show his thanks to the God who listened to him and saved him and he tells us that he will publicly thank God through the required sacrifices laid down in the bible for this and he will use this to proclaim his God’s great name.

Another interesting aspect to this Psalm for me is that we know that this Psalm is part of the “Hallel” Psalms (113 – 1118) also called by the Jews, “The Egyptian Hallel Psalms” because these Psalms were used as part of the Passover celebrations where the Jews celebrated God saving his people out of the bondage of Egypt. Psalm 116 was and is used in Jewish worship after the passover meal has been eaten. This possed for me a very real question:

How does this deeply personal testimony Psalm relate to the Passover celebrations?

I like H.C. Leupold answer to this question:

“It is not inappropriate for the individual to think of the nations deliverance as being analogous to his own”.

So the answer to the Psalmist prayer for salvation or deliverance from certain death is an analogy of the Nations of Israel’s answered prayer for deliverance from death and bondage in Egypt.

Therefore as the Passover is an analogous event in history of the deliverance from the bondage of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus we to can study and learn from this Psalm that God hears us when we pray and is in fact the only one who can save us from the consequences of our sins which is eternal death.

We have no idea when this Psalm was written or what actual event led to the Psalmist writing it only to say two things:

It was placed in the fifth book of Psalms after the return from exile.
The writer was delivered or saved from certain death.

Why many Psalms are vague concerning the full details of what the writer is praying about I think is done on purpose so that the Psalm can relate to individuals going through similar but not the same kind of experiences and find the same help and encouragement from the Psalmist experience and words.

The Psalm also contains many bible references particularly from previous Psalms which means the writer of this Psalm knew his bible and used the words from it in his day to day walk with the Lord.

I find the words of the actual Psalm so powerful and personal that I have attempted to use them even as my headings in my outline of this Psalm which is based on the concept of this Psalm being a praise of the Lord for how the God of the bible hears our prayers and saves us:

(1 – 9) I LOVE THE LORD

1. (1 – 2) I love the Lord
2. (3 – 9) I will call on him

2. (10 – 14) I TRUST IN THE LORD

1. (10 – 14) I trusted the Lord
2. (12 – 14) I will repay the Lord

3. (15 – 19) I SERVE THE LORD

1. (15 – 16) I am your servant
2. (17 – 19) I will worship the Lord

(1 – 9) I LOVE THE LORD

1. (1 – 2) I love the Lord

This very personal Psalm commences with the intense and emotionally charged words of verse 1 that says,

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy”.

Many commentators who know the original Hebrew point out the unusual way the Hebrew actually goes here. Allan Harman says this,

“This translation of the NIV is possible, but the position of the word “Lord’ is debatable. The preferred and more literal rendering is, ‘I love, for the Lord heard the voice of my supplications”.

Harmon goes on to explain what this literal translation of the original Hebrew means,

“The unusual expression may well draw attention to the intensity of the love that he felt for the Lord”.

So the original writer really now loved the Lord far greater than he did before his recent experience of God answering his prayers. Harmon also quotes the words of the apostle John in 1 John 4: 19,

“We love because he first loved us”.

Note the other word for love this Psalmist uses at the end of verse 1, “mercy” which is the Old Testament word for grace or love we do not deserve. It is this concept of grace or love we do not deserve that features in the presentation of God in the bible that separates it from all other concepts of God found in other religions.

The God of the bible helps us when we don’t deserve help as Paul makes it clear in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

Also the God of the bible actually listens to us when we pray as we read in verse 2,

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live”.

The idea of God listening to us features all through the Psalms, 17: 6, 31: 2, 71: 2, 86: 1 and
102: 2 . As we learnt from Psalm 113: 5 – 6, the God of the bible is both great, mighty, powerful and lives enthroned in heaven but also chooses to stoop down to as it says here in Psalm 116 to,

“Turn his ear to me”.

I have already mentioned in my introduction some of the words of the song “Telephone to Glory” and I think the last two lines of the chorus says it all,

“Built by God the Father for his loved and own
We may talk to Jesus through his royal telephone”.

When we speak to God through the Lord Jesus we are not on a dead line with no one on the other end but God is listening and the writer to the Hebrews speaks of this confidence we can have when we pray in Hebrews 4: 16,

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

Paul tells us in Romans 8: 34 that Jesus established this “Royal Telephone” or communication with the Father in heaven, called prayer through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus,

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

So the writer of Psalm 116 says that he loves the Lord because the Lord showed him the love he did not deserve when he listened to his desperate prayer for help and finally this renewed experience of the love of God will lead him to,

“Call on him (the Lord) as long as I live”.

When we prove God in our lives though answered prayer our faith in God is given a boost and we learn afresh to trust in the Lord and love him more. This was the experience of this Psalm writer his actual personal experience of a remarkable answer to his prayer bolstered his faith and led him to look to God even more in prayer.

May we do the same and lean that God does love us because he not only sent Jesus to die for us but he listen to us and answer our prayers as John says in 1 John 5: 13 – 14,

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”.

2. (3 – 9) I will call on him

In the first two verses we are not told what the writer of Psalm 116 cried out to the Lord about, what his prayer request was for but now we are told in both verses 3 and 8 that it was what seemed to be certain death that caused him to call out to the Lord.

In verse 3 this prayer request is expressed this way,

“The chords of death entangled me the anguish of the grave cam over me”.

And in verse 8 the prayer request is expressed this way,

“For the Lord has delivered me from death”.

Why the Psalmist was close to certain death we are not told. Could it have been like King Hezekiah recorded in Isaiah 38 sickness as verses 1 says,

“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Or could it been certain death that would come from some kind of enemy as David speaks of in Psalm 18: 3,

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies”.

I mention Psalm 18 because the writer of Psalm 116 lifts and steals the opening words of David’s next verse, verse 4 in the opening words of Psalm 116 verse 3 to describe his near death experience,

“The chords of death entangled me”

The next words of the writer of Psalm 116 in verse 3 are:

“The anguish of the grave came over me”

Which I think echo David’s words in Psalm 18 verse 5,

The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me”.

Our death or facing what might seem certain death is probably one of the most confronting and difficult things we will ever experience as the mortality of our existence and the sheer hopelessness of our situation is never more real and terrifying.

So whether this writer faced death through sickness or death at the hands of his enemies is not clear but he did face what seemed to him to be certain death. The image for him and David as death being like cords pulling him into the grave is described this way by writers of the Pulpit commentary,

“Death is pictured as seizing his victim and binding him with cords”.

Leopold likens it to the actions of a ancient hunter who traps his animal pray in a net and the victim feels trapped in the mesh of the hunters net that is dragging it to its certain cruel and bloody end, death.

These are vivid images of a very real and frightening situation the writer of Psalm 116 prayed his prayer from.

So in verses 3 – 9 I see four other things that the writer of Psalm 116 wants to convey to us about his experience of a remarkable answer to prayer he prayed when he faced what seemed to him and others like certain death and they are:

  1. How he felt when he faced certain death (verses 3b and 8b)
  2. What he did when when he faced certain death (verse 4)
  3. What God did when he called out to him (verses 5 and 6)
  4. What he did when his prayer was answered (verses 7 and 9)

So lets have a closer look at each of these four things the writer of Psalm 116 wants to convey to us about his experience of a remarkable answer to the prayer he prayed when he faced what seemed to him was certain death.

How he felt when he faced certain death (verse 3b and 8b)

As I said this is a deeply personal testimony of the writers experience of his answer to prayer of deliverance from certain death and in the second half of verse 3 he tells us how he felt as he was being pulled very quickly to what seemed certain death, he writes,

“The anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow”

Then in verse 8b he writes,

“My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling”

I have only personally witnessed the actual death of one person my own dear father who died ten years ago at the age of 80 and my wife and two sisters stood around his bed in hospital as he spent what was for me about half and hour of terrible suffering as he died of the effects of pneumonia on his already weakened aged body.

My dad gasped to breath and we stood around him weeping and seeking to somehow comfort him as his life seemed to be taken away from him. We all cried out with a loud wale of anguish and despair as he breathed his last breath. Death I thought later is not a pretty thing it is an awful unnatural and devastating experience to witness and I am sure go through.

My Dad was not a believer and he came from a long line of non – believing ancestors as his father and grand father were honest open atheists who hated believers and the churches they belonged to. I was often a great disappointment to my Dad and the family that both he and my mum came from. I dared to believe in God and at family gatherings I was often the but of many peoples jokes as the tea tottering foolish believer of fairy tales.
However when the chips are down and death is staring us all in the face then my so called foolish faith seems for a short while not so foolish and I have had some of my best opportunities to witness to my non believing families at funerals of family members over many years now.

Paul makes many startling claims about death and the Christian faith and I love his words about our victory over death in 1 Corinthians 15: 55 and 56,

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law”.

Note that Paul tells us death has a sting or it will be a painful and unpleasant experience but because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the pain or in Psalm 116 terms anguish and tears of death will turn into victory.

What he did when when he faced certain death (verse 4)

The writer of Psalm 116 unlike my Dad was a true believer and as he faced certain, painful and frightening death he did something that verse 4 now tells us,

“Then I called on the name of the Lord; ‘Lord save me’”

What the writer did has three parts:

  1. He called
  2. On the name of the Lord
  3. Save me

Lets have a closer look at each of these three parts of what the writer of Psalm 116 did as he faced certain death.

  1. He called

Spurgeon writes,

“Prayer is never out of season, he prayed then, when things were at their worst. When the good man could not run to God, he called to him. In his extremity his faith came to the front: it was useless to call on man, and it may have seemed almost as useless to appeal to the Lord; but yet he did with his whole soul”.

In my introduction I spoke of the sermon illustration Tony Evans gave of his experience in a high rise buildings lift when it stopped working and got stuck between floors and of how people in the lift reacted different ways. He said some called out loudly, while others thumped the walls of the lift all hoping some might hear they were in trouble and needed help. He even said some simply slumped to the floor and gave up in despair.

But Tony Evans alone knew what to do and he calmly stepped forward and opened a little box near the front of the lift and used the phone in that box to call for help.

Tony Evans lift illustration is an analogy of what people do when they face real problems and difficulties in their lives, they might call out in vain hope to others for help, or thrash around thumping walls in anger or despair or both or they might just slump to the floor and simply give up.

However the true believers of the God of the bible know where the real life line is found and it is through prayer which I alluded to in my introduction as God’s telephone to glory. When the chips are down or when death is staring us in the face what we do then really shows what we really believe.

For the writer of Psalm 116 he followed the example of David in Psalm 18 verse 6,

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help”.
Jesus wants us to turn and call to him when life gets hard and burdensome as he says to us in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Not that when we might face death in the future turning to Jesus will save us from it, he might if our time in this life is not over but rather even if it is our time to pass from this life to the next he will be with us helping us through the pain and burden of even our deaths.

I hope that when my time comes to die, and we all know we will, then my faith will cause me to call out to the Lord for comfort and help knowing that his promise is to give me rest.

2. On the name of the Lord

The writer of Psalm 116 did not call out vainly in the air for help like the people in the lift did in Tony Evans stuck lift story he called on the name of of the Lord. Leopold explains well what calling on the name of the Lord really means when he writes,

“God’s name implies the fulness of revelation that the Lord has made concerning himself”.

In David’s Psalm 18 that the writer of Psalm 116 was obviously very familiar with David speaks this way about what he believed God had revealed himself to him in verse 2 of that Psalm,

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and deliverer; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

And remember David wrote these words when he himself seemed to face certain death and like the writer of Psalm 116, called out to this Lord he has just described.

People might even try and pray when they face death but who or what are they praying to, often simply is a vain hope of someone or something beyond themselves who they think might be there to help and deliver them.

However David and the writer of Psalm 116 called out to the God of the bible who as I said earlier is the creator of this world and the entire universe who has unlimited resources to draw upon to help us. I mentioned earlier the confidence the writer of the Hebrews spoke of in Hebrews 4: 16,

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

And Paul spoke of in Romans 8: 34,

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

The writer of Psalm 116 will tell us a bit more about the kind of God he called upon in the next verse but for now I offer the verses that precede the Hebrews 4: 16 verse that tell us that when we pray to the revealed name and person of the Lord Jesus Christ we not only have a saviour who has access to unlimited resources but we are praying to someone who understands our needs and difficulties, Hebrews 4: 14 – 15,

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin”.

3. Save me

The writer of Psalm 116 simple prayer request was,

“Lord save me”.

Sometimes the best prayers are the simple to the point prayers that do not prattle on but get straight to the point and sometimes the situation is so dangerous and great all we can do is pray something like, Lord save me or even Lord help me.

I call simple prayers like this arrow prayers, prayers spoken in the heat of a situation when time for longer more thought through prayer is simply not available. I seek to commence my day some time in the morning after breakfast with a time of prayer but I also seek to practice saying simple arrow prayers when needed during the day.

Some writers call prayer the Christians breathing and the writer of Psalm 116 when he was faced with certain death used some of what could have seemed like his final breath praying,

“Lord save me”.

This prayer request lies at the heart of all prayer requests as in a sense its what we all need in various ways.

We need to be saved because of our many sins and Paul says this in Roams 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Paul says in Romans 10: 9,

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

We also need to be saved or helped in various ways throughout our Christian life as we face all kinds of trials and difficulties which again we can look to The Lord Jesus Christ as Peter encourages his readers to do in 1 Peter 5: 6 – 7,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”.

3. What God did when he called out to him (verses 5 and 6)

The writer of Psalm 116 now tells us in verses 5 and 6 what God did when he called out on the name of the Lord to save him when he faced certain death and his answer tells us a little more about what he believed the God the bible is like as well.

He tells us two things the Lord did after he called out to him when he faced certain death:

  1. The Lord was gracious (vs. 5)
  2. The Lord saved him (vs. 6)

Lets have a closer look at each of these two things the Lord did after the writer of Psalm 116 called out to the name of the Lord to save him when he faced certain death.

  1. The Lord was gracious (vs. 5)

The first thing the writer tells us the Lord did when he called pout to him to save him is what we read in verse 5,

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion”.

This description of God comes up all through the book of Psalms and all through the bible and first appears in the book of Exodus when God comes close to Moses and somehow passes by him we read in Exodus 34: 6,

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

David spoke about this quality of God a lot and it appears twice in his Psalm 57 like verse 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me— God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

David also speaks of God in the same way in verse 10 of that Psalm when he says,

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies”

The writer of Psalm 116 adds “righteous” to graciousness and later in the verse compassion and Albert Barnes explains and applies why “righteousness” is as important as graciousness or love,

“And righteous … – Just; true; faithful. This, too, is a proper foundation of appeal to God: not that we are righteous, and have a claim to his favour, but that he is a Being who will do what is right; that is, what is best to be done in the case. If he were an unjust Being; if he were one on whose stability of character, and whose regard for right, no reliance could be placed, we could never approach him with confidence or hope.”

So even the fact that God “turned his ear” as the writer of Psalm 116 to his prayer or call for help is only because the God of the bible is both gracious and righteous”.

2. The Lord saved him (vs. 6)

Then in verse 6 the writer tells us that this gracious and righteous God saved him from the certain death he faced but in telling us this he speaks of another great truth about the God of the bible for in verse 6 he writes,

“The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me”.

The unwary could be translated “simple minded” but Alan Harman says it should be translated,

“Those people who are resting on the Lord and his promises”.

Allan Harman points out that,

“The Psalmist was simple – hearted person when in humility he called on the Lord, and was saved”.

Jesus gives us the secret to God acting towards us in compassion and righteousness when he fleshes out what it means to be simple – hearted or people who are resting in the promises of God in the beatitudes in Matthew 5: 3 – 10,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted. 5  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, or they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, or theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

James simply says, in James 4: 10,

‘Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

The writer of Psalm 116 was brought very low and as he humbled himself before the Lord and called out to him to be saved, we read at the end of verse 6,

“He saved me”.

4. What he did when his prayer was answered (verses 7 and 9)

The writer obviously wrote this Psalm after he had gone through his near death experience and was saved from it by God after he prayed to God or called on God to save him so we have two verses in the first half of the Psalm that the writer tells us his resolve as a result of Gods wonderful answer to his prayer. The second half of the Psalm deals much more with what the writer of Psalm 116 now intends to do as a result of God’s answer to his desperate prayer.

So we have two things the writer of Psalm 116 now resolves to do as a result of God’s answer to his prayer and they are in two verses. They are:

  1. Get back to being at rest with God (vs. 7)
  2. Continue to walk in faith with the Lord (vs. 9)

Lets have a closer look at each of this two resolves in the first half of this Psalm:

  1. Get back to being at rest with God (vs. 7)

I have met Christians in the past who have survived and come through difficult traumatic experiences and sadly have not moved on in peace and assurance with the Lord. Many years ago a good Christian friend of mine returned from a tour of Vietnam during the Vietnam war and he survived after we all at my church had prayed much for him but he was so shaken up by the experience of that war and could not let his memory of what he saw and maybe did go that he turned his back on his faith in God and even us as his friends. He kept saying to me, “but you weren’t there Jim I was and I cannot forget what I saw”. What my friend was suffering from now has a name, “Post Traumatic Stress”.

The writer of Psalm 116 had just experienced great trauma in his life and it could have been as a result of being threatened by a enemy like David alludes to in Psalm 18 the writer of Psalm 116 resolve is in verse 7,

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you”.

I lost contact with my soldier friend as he moved away from his home town soon after returning from Vietnam. However a couple of years later I met another Christian young man who also had served in Vietnam and one night on a fellowship camp I went to he gave us a talk on his often terrifying experiences while he was in Vietnam. He spoke of terrible things that happened or that he witnessed but at the same time he spoke of how God had helped him not only to survive but helped him cope with the trauma he had and the memory of it since he returned to Australia.

He had the same resolve as the writer of Psalm 116, he wanted to find rest and peace for his soul as he looked to the Lord who had helped him through the dark and difficult time he had gone through in Vietnam.

The apostle Paul went through many difficult and traumatic experiences as he sought to proclaim the Gospel in his day but he tells us why he was able to cope and get through these traumas in Philippians 4: 12 – 13,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

We all have to come to the point in our lives when we answer the all important question,

What will define my life now, the problems, difficulties and even failures of my past or The Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life for me and promises his help and strength me now and in the
future?

2. Continue to walk in faith with the Lord (vs. 9)

The second resolve of the writer of Psalm 116 now that God had saved his life after he prayed a desperate prayer to his is in verse 9, that says,

“That I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living”

My close Christian friend who returned from Vietnam many years ago obviously suffering from Post Traumatic Stress” obviously at the time I was speaking to him all those years ago chose to do the opposite thing to what this verse speaks of doing, he chose to not walk with the Lord in the land of the living.

Maybe God kept his hand on this young man and helped turn him around I do not know but it was very sad and even frustrating for me talking with my good friend as at the very point he needed God’s help in his life he seemed to be turning his back on the Lord.

I have sadly witnessed others doing the same thing for different reasons like the church warden of a church I attended years ago who after loosing his dear wife to cancer said, “well if that is what God can do to a person I want nothing to do with him anymore”. With that statement he stopped attending our church and cut off friendship and contact with all of his long standing Christian friends.

The minister of my church said to me in private that he felt to sad for that church warden because just when God and his church could offer so much help and assistance to him he simply refused to keep walking with the Lord and as a consequence now had no one to turn to that could help him.

Earlier in Philippians 4 chapter I recently quoted Paul gives us some further words of advice when he says this in Philippians 4: 6 – 7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”.

The other soldier friend I met a few years after my other friend had come back from Vietnam was obviously a man who practiced prayer and trust in the Lord and he seemed to have within him a quiet but sure confidence that only God can give, He had put the horrors of the war behind him and like the wrier of Psalm 116 was resolved to walking,

“Before the Lord in the land of the living”.

Again what are you going to do live in the past in the land of the dead or walk in the present with the Lord in the land of the living?

2. (10 – 14) I TRUST IN THE LORD

1. (10 – 11) I trusted the Lord

Verse 10 commences what many commentators call the second section of this Psalm and it is interesting to note that the original Greek version of the Old Testament called “”Septuagint” breaks the second half of this Psalm away from the first half as a seperate Psalm. However Leuopld points out that even though some of the logic between the two sections is a bit fuzzy the Psalm still can be seen unified and that it is the writers feeling of gratitude that moves him along and,

“The stricter concerns of logic may momentarily be disregarded”.

So in this first part of the second half of this Psalm we see how the Psalmist trusted in God when everyone said his situation was hopeless.

He states again clearly in verse 10 what he did when he realised he was facing what seemed to be certain death,

“I trusted in the Lord when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted”.

When it seemed as though there was no hope for our writer he exercises real faith in God which he calls trusting in the Lord. When all else fails in our lives then our faith is really proven. My young friend returning from Vietnam had his faith surely tested through the horrors of the Vietnam war and sadly his faith was found wanting as did the church warden a few years later when his dear wife died of cancer.

Peter speaks of the testing of our faith in God this way in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

My other friend who experienced the horrors of the Vietnam war had a different reaction to that time of grief and trial as he never gave up his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and he returned a chastened man but a man of faith who had a wonderful testimony to tell of how God sustained him and even saved him through the danger and calamities of that war.

Like the people in the lift that got stuck in my opening illustration some people in times of difficulty simply yell and scream and thrash about banging the walls so to speak but Tony Evans the minister who told this story simply went to the little box in the front of lift and opened it to use the emergency phone to call for help.

When I find myself in the midst of a trail I too have been able to turn to God in prayer and by doing so I proved again for myself God is not only there but as the writer of Psalm 116 says in verse 1,

“He turns his ear to me”.

Then in verse 11 the writer I believe reveals the very real desperate plight he faces with the words of verse 11,

“In my alarm I said, ‘Everyone is a liar”.

Allan Harman suggests a very plausible explanation of these words when he writes,

“Men may have been giving him false advice, and he knew them well enough to declare them to be Lias”.

Not that they were dishonest but humanly speaking all they could see was that our writers predicament was so grave that only his death could be its outcome. Like a doctor treating a terminally ill cancer patient he must tell the patient his prognosis.

It is at this point of the Psalm that the story of the life threatening illness of King Hezekiah relates best as even the great true prophet of God Isaiah was forced to tell Hezekiah that his sickness would end in his death as Isaiah 38: 1 records,

“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Then we read of Hezekiah’s desperate prayer of faith in verse 2,

“Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly”.

So it seems that if the advice of great prophet is you are going to die then it would seem that humanly speaking you will die but Isaiah was seen to be kind if lying because after that God tells Isaiah something quite different and it is good news for king Hezekiah as we read in verses 4 – 6,

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city”.

God chose to work through the faith of King Hezekiah, making the sound human advice that he would surely die a lie as he worked a miracle and saved King Hezekiah’s life and through him his peoples lives from the powerful Assyrians.

2. (12 – 14) I will repay the Lord

Then in the second part of the second section of Psalm 116 the writer asks what he can do to repay the Lord for his miraculous loving deliverance or salvation with the words of verse 12,

“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me”.

Of course the obvious answer is he could not repay the goodness of God for that price’s payment would be far greater than any man or women could ever come up with. His deliverance is therefore priceless as it comes from a God who love and power is limitless.

Our salvation in Christ is even more priceless than what the writer of Psalm 116 price would have been for his miraculous deliverance from certain death. As Paul states in Ephesians 1: 6 – 7,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”.

However even though we could never repay God for his amazing grace in saving us through the giving of his Son’s blood on the cross he still wants a response of gratitude from us for our realisation that he has saved us and the writer of Psalm 116 gives us two things he would do out of gratitude for what God so lovingly did for him and they are:

  1. Lift up the Lord in proclamation of his salvation (vs. 13)
  2. For-fill the promises he made to the Lord (vs. 14)

So lets have a closer look at each go these two things:

  1. Lift up the Lord in proclamation of his salvation (vs. 13)

I believe that the writer of Psalm 116 does not believe he can actually repay the Lord what he called the Lords gracious goodness to him but he must show in some way his gratitude to the Lord for his loving acts for him. So the writer speaks first of all lifting up the salvation he performed for him in a public proclamation of the Lord, he writes in verse 13,

“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord”.

  1. The cup of salvation seems to be a poetic expression for one of two things which are:

A general expression of saying thanks to the Lord publicly like a kind of toast.

Or

2. A specific ceremonial offering like a drink offering (Numbers 28: 7) or the cup offered up as part of the Passover meal as Jesus used in his last approver meal in the last supper which Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 10: 16.

Many commentators lean towards the ceremonial interpretation owing to the reference in verse 17 of the offering of the sacrifice of a thank offering.

In any case both interpretations to me are a form of a public declaration of the Lords salvation. Jesus intended that lifting a cup and drinking out of it and the breaking of bread to represent the giving of his blood and body as a way of remembering his spilt blood and broken body for us in achieving our salvation as Jesus declares in Luke 22: 17 – 19,

“After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

So in the communion service, however your church might do it is a way of us lifting up the cup of salvation as a physical act of proclaiming our Salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ for us.

2. For-fill the promises he made to the Lord (vs. 14)

Then the writer of Psalm 116 speaks of a way of showing genuine gratitude for God’s salvation for him in a very Old Testament way by the fulfilment of a vow in verse 14, he writes,

“I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people”

Allan Harmon points out that,

“A vow was a verbal promise to God (Numbers 30: 1 – 4 and Deuteronomy 23: 21)

Which he goes on to point out that,

“It involved the offering of a promised gift for sacrifice”.

So it seems that the writer of Psalm 116 made some kind of vow to God as he prayed for the Lord to deliver him from what seemed to him to be certain death. The concept of offering vows features in the Psalms of David as well as we see in Psalm 56: 12 – 13,

“I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you. 13 For you have
delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life”.

So again this offering of a vow was a form of public proclamation of the salvation of the Lord for a certain individual and in this case the writer of Psalm 116.

In the New Testament we have the concept of the sacrifice of praise as the writer to the Hebrews speaks of in Hebrews 13: 15,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”.

Note how this sacrifice of praise is offered by our lips as we profess or proclaim the name and I believe work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul speaks in Romans 12: 1 that our worship now because of the mercies of God offered to us in Jesus Christ is a sacrifice of service to the Lord,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

This sacrifice of service is obviously form of public act of love to others that shows that we really do appreciate what God has so richly has done for us out of his love for us.

3. (15 – 19) I SERVE THE LORD

1. (15 – 16) I am your servant

The last section of this Psalm continues the writer of Psalm 116 resolve to praise and worship the Lord because of what he did for him in his merciful answer to his desperate prayer to save him from what seemed to him and even his close friends certain death.

However the first verse of this last section, verse 15 is probably the hardest verse in the Psalm to interpret, it says,

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants”.

It sounds looks like at first sight that the writer of Psalm 116 is saying God delights or takes pleasure in the death of his faithful servants. We know that this must not be the case for Ezekiel 18: 23 says,

 “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

The faithful servant of God is a person who has truly turned from his wicked ways so God could not take pleasure or consider precious their deaths.

Allan Harmon answers this quandary for me with these words,

“This means God will never be uncaring when his people come near to death”.

Harmon then quotes Psalm 72: 14, which says,

“He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight”

So the writer of Psalm 116 somehow learnt that God cares for his servants, those who have faith in God and seek to put that faith in action through service even when they come close to death or even die.

This is a comforting thought for all of us as we all will die one day and we of course take Jesus words in John 11: 25 – 26 seriously when they say,

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die”.

Then in verse 16 the writer confirms that he is and has been a faithful servant of God when he says,

“Truly I am your servant Lord”

Then adds a personal testimonial fact,

“I serve you just as my mother did”,

Obviously the witness of his dear mother was a major factor in his own faith in God just as it was for Timothy as Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1: 5

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also”.

Finally in verse 16 he adds the recent testimony of God’s loving help with the words,

“You have freed me from my chains”.

He poetically pictures his recent illness or crisis with his enemies as being like locked in chains and having the Lord himself setting him free from the chains that bound him.

I read a very helpful little article on the Net by Jack Graham called “4 Steps to breaking free from the chains that bind you” and here is that short article for your edification.

“Do you feel like you’re living in hope and victory – or like you’re being held hostage by fear, worry, and other self-destructive thoughts and habits? The great news is Jesus is your bondage breaker. In His name, you can break free from any chains that bind you – whether they’re chains of anxiety and fear… or alcohol and drugs.

Here are four steps to help you fight the lies and break free:

1. Remember who you are in Jesus. If you’re a Christian, you’re a new person in Christ. You’re not a slave – you’ve been set free! (See Galatians 5:1.) You just need to learn to live in the victory that Christ has given you.

2. Rely on God’s strength, not your own. We’re all helpless in our own strength, but we’re not hopeless! You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, as Philippians 4:13 promises. In His name, you can defeat any enemy and shake off any shackles.

3. Fight the lies by focusing on God’s life-changing truth. As Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Stop believing the lies you tell yourself or the enemy tells you. There’s no adversary or addiction that can’t go down in the name of Jesus. You just have to know God’s truth so you can fight the lies.

4. Be willing to be set free, healed, and made whole. Remember what Jesus said to the lame man at the Pool of Bethseda. He had been lying there for 38 years – nearly 4 decades! One day, Jesus came by, looked him in the eye, and said, “Do you want to be healed?” That’s the question Jesus is asking you today: “Are you willing? Do you want to let go of this and be set free?” Some people get comfortable in their behaviour – but sin is like a disease. If you’re willing to admit there’s a problem and let it go, Jesus will help you break every chain.

So reject the lies of Satan and start believing what Jesus says to you. Jesus says, “I love you and I have a plan for your life.” So trust Him. Yield your life completely to Him. Say, “I’m not going to live my life this way anymore. Lord Jesus, change me, cleanse me, and take control.” As you do that, Jesus will break the chains so you can live free in unbridled hope and victory in Him”.

2. (17 – 19) I will worship the Lord

The writer of Psalm 116 complete his Psalm with a final resolve to show gratitude for God’s amazing answer to his desperate prayer of deliverance from certain death and these last three verses contain a resolve to publicly worship God. He expresses his resolve to publicly worship God in Old Testament pre – coming of Jesus terms.

He actually expresses two Old Testament worship activities that could have been combined in one act of formal worship. The two Old Testament worship activities are:

  1. The sacrifice of a thank offering (vs. 17)
  2. The fulfilment of a vow (vs. 18)

Lets have a close look at these two Old Testament (v. 17)

  1. The sacrifice of a thank offering (vs. 17)

We have to remember that our writer of Psalm 116 is a Old testament believer who lived hundreds of years before the coming of Christ so he is referring to Old Testament sacrifices when he writes in verse 17,

“I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord”..

The thank offering is what is laid down through the Old Testament law in Leviticus 7: 12 – 15,

“‘If they offer it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering they are to offer thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with oil, and thick loaves of the finest flour well-kneaded and with oil mixed in. 13 Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. 14 They are to bring one of each kind as an offering, a contribution to the Lord; it belongs to the priest who splashes the blood of the fellowship offering against the altar. 15 The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning”.

One commentator pointed out that the thank offering was a very public form of sacrifice as it was a kind of meal involving a special kind of bread that was eaten by the giver and the priests or Levites in the Temple.

This is probably why he can speak of proclaiming or calling on the name of the Lord in the offering of this kind of sacrifice. He is actually saying he will use his thank offering as a opportunity to give a testimony to the grace and goodness of God in answering his recent prayer concerning his deliverance from what seemed certain death.

Paul makes it clear that because of what Christ has done for us we are now under a different pattern of teaching in Roams 6: 17 – 18,

“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”.

Paul is saying we are no longer under law but grace and in Romans 12: 1 he speaks of how that works in way out for us in our acts of worship,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

As we serve God as our act of worship we should call on the name of the Lord or proclaim him to others and share our testimony of what the Lord has done for us like the writer of Psalm 116 obviously sought to do.

2. The fulfilment of a vow (vs. 18)

Then the writer of Psalm 116 speaks or another Old Testament worship requirement called the fulfilment of vows as he writes in verse 18,

“I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of his people”

The Leviticus 7 passage I quoted from in the first point speaks of the fulfilment of vows and the making of a thank offering in verse 16 – 17,

‘“If, however, their offering is the result of a vow or is a freewill offering, the sacrifice shall be eaten on the day they offer it, but anything left over may be eaten on the next day. 17 Any meat of the sacrifice left over till the third day must be burned up”.

So the Old Testament worship requirements spoken about in verses 17 and 18 could be the one act of offering a thank offering in the connection of the keeping of a vow which I pointed out was a very public or social thing as the special bread used in the Thank Offering was eaten by the participant and the priests and Levites present in the Temple at the time of the offering.

So the words,

“In the presence of his people”.

Means again the writer of Psalm 116 wants to use this special religious ceremony as a form of public testimony to the grace and goodness of the Lord in answering his recent prayer of deliverance from what seemed certain death.

I mentioned in my comments of verse 14 that vow keeping was a serious matter for Old Testament believers who sought to obey the word of God and even David speaks of keeping his vows in Psalm 56: 12 – 13,

“I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you. 13 For you have
delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life”.

Even David saw the short comings of the Old Testament sacrificial system when he says this in Psalm 51: 16,

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings”.

In the next verse David tells us what God actually delights in,

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God will not despise”.

The writer of Psalm 116 shows all the signs of a man who wants to show God his appreciation from his heart and his willingness to speak of God publicly and to perform worship publicly proclaiming the name of the Lord points to his obedient and contrite heart.

His final words of his Psalm speak of where he will publicly fulfil these acts of thankful worship,

“In the courts of the house of the Lord – in your midst, Jerusalem”.

He is speaking of the Temple in Jerusalem that must have been there either before the Babylonian conquest or the re- built Temple after the return from Babylonian captivity. There in God’s appointed place he determines to publicly testify to God’s grace and goodness in delivering him from what seemed certain death when God answered his desperate prayer.

For us the Temple is long gone and Paul teaches that we are now little Temples of God or individual dwelling places of God on earth, 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies”.

And we are also members of the church which is now the household of God or God’s Temple on earth as Paul teaches in Ephesians 2: 19 – 22,

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.

So we should seek first to testify to the grace of God he has given us even in the answer to our prayers in the church where we meet publicly to worship the Lord with other believers.

Also we should be willing to testify to others outside of the church of how God has answered our prayers as this kind of thing does give glory to God and points others to the reality of his love and power.

The writer of Psalm 116 then ends his Psalm with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” which we translate in English as “Praise the Lord”. This is a fitting end to this writers testimony of how it was God alone who pulled him through what seemed certain death after he called on him to be saved by him.

We are saved from eternal death through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and this should bring from our lips our “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” because our God through the Lord Jesus Christ has saved us not because of anything we have done but as Paul says in Ephesians 2: 8,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

I close as usual with a new original poem and a prayer:

I LOVE THE LORD
(based on Psalm 116)

Chorus 1:

I love the Lord
For he heard my cry for love
He turned his ear to me
For I called out to God above
And he answered me with love.

The chords of death entangled me
And deaths anguish filled my soul
I was overcome with distress
So I called on God to make me whole.
Our God is gracious and full of love
He saved me when I was so low.
So now I rest in his glorious Love
For he saved me and made me whole.

Chorus 2:

I trust in the Lord
For he delivered me from death
He saw my tears and stumbling feet
So he sent his Son to die for me
And his death has set me free.

What shall I give to God above
For his goodness to me?
I’ll lift the cup of his salvation
Remembering the blood he shed so free.
Precious is the blood he spilt
That he shed on the cross for me
So now I long to serve the Lord
And worship him eternally.

Chorus 3.

I love the Lord
For he heard my cry for love
And I’ll join God’s family
Who seek to praise the Lord above
Proclaiming the message of his Love.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

I give praise to you Father up above for you answered my cry for salvation by sending down your Son to shed his blood on the cross to forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I no longer fear death as I now see it as your doorway into your eternal dwelling place you call heaven. Help me to show that I really do believe in your love for me and help me to show my gratitude for it by the way I live my life in service for you and by the way I now seek to join your family in praise and worship of you and your amazing love for us, In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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PSALM 115 TALK: HALLELUJAH: THE LORD ALONE DESERVES OUR TRUST AND PRAISE

PSALM 115 TALK: HALLELUJAH: THE LORD ALONE DESERVES OUR TRUST AND  PRAISE

 (A Psalm of praise that directs us to trust and praise the God of the bible alone as he deserves our praise because he is the creator of this world and the entire universe and at the same time he has loved us with an everlasting and faithful love and promises to bless us if we but turn to him in faith and obedience).

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

 One of the current ministers of the church I attend is a very good preacher and bible teacher and often receives compliments for his interesting and helpful sermons and he has told us that his usual response to these compliments is to say, “praise to the appropriate authority” and then points one of his fingers to the sky indicating the praise belongs to the Lord above for anything he said that they found helpful.

Psalm 115 is another “Hallelujah Song” (Psalms 111 – 118) that states clearly, we do not deserve praise only God and in fact because of God’s loving faithfulness to his people he also deserves our trust as well.

Psalm 115 is also part of what is called “The Egyptian Hallel” Psalms (Psalms 113 – 118) used as part of the Passover Celebrations and Psalm 115 was one of four Psalms sung or said after the Passover meal was completed.

The Psalm was believed to have been written after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon which was when this Psalm was certainly placed in what we call the fifth book of Psalms. If this is correct then this was a very difficult time for the Jewish nation who have just returned to a ruined Israel now containing many non – Jewish and non-God believing people who had started to settle in the land of Israel after most of the Jews who were not killed by the Babylonians were taken in captivity in Babylon for 70 years or more.

The returning Jews would have been small in number and would have had great challenges from idol worship religions of many other nations which explains why this Psalm features a challenge to the one God of the bible belief as opposed to what it sets down as false and powerless idol worship.

The people from other Nations now also in Israel would have known what happened to the Jews first through the Assyrian conquest and nearly 200 hundred years later what happened to the southern kingdom Judah and would have asked the question in verse 2,

“Where is your God”

 Not only did the Jews not have an idol to represent their God but their God seemed to be both silent and inactive when foreign different God believing nations overran them. This of course is counted by the fact that the prophets of Judah like Jeremiah had predicted that God would judge the Nation of Judah through the Babylonians because of their unfaithfulness and sinfulness to the God of the bible.

Also, the prophets like Jeremiah predicted that after only 70 years in exile in Babylon the Babylonians would be overrun by another great nation and be allowed to return to Israel to re-build their Temple and capitol city of Jerusalem and freely practice their faith in their God again.

This all happened around 539 BC when the Persians defeated the Babylonians as Jeremiah had predicted and the Jews were miraculously allowed and even encouraged to return to their homeland to rebuild their nation and practice their faith in their God again.

Today one of the main anti – God of the bible views, “Atheism” aggressively seeks to put down and eliminate any following of the God of the bible. They are now arguing that faith in a God and particularly the God of the bible is both a fairy-tale and dangerous.

A couple of years ago a non – Christian radio presenter named Richard Glover wrote an article in a local newspaper entitled, “Sticking up for the believers” and in that article, he says this,

“Inviting a cleric onto ABC radio, as I do from time to time, brings a torrent of enraged correspondence. “How dare you give this man airtime?”, “I am disgusted you would allow this,” and, “Who possibly thought this was a good idea?”.

 The phrase “religious nutter” is then much employed, as if it would be a grammatical mistake to use the world “religious” with a “nutter” in close attendance.

 The “nutter” in question is usually the Catholic or Anglican Archbishop of Sydney – two chaps who are both scholarly, quick-witted, urbane and humane. To any open-minded person, what they say is at least as interesting as what anybody else has to say.

 So why the derision? Why the fight to the death? Why the demeaning sneers of, “This guy believes in fairy stories”?

 This kind of intensive opposition has been growing over the past twenty years or so now and is a modern version of what I believe the Jews faced in the return from exile in Babylon which I believe the writer of Psalm 115 picks up in his Psalm. The Psalm then will have a lot to say to us as we face the same kind of opposition the people faced after the return from exile in Babylon.

The final introductory remarks I would like to add before we look closely at this Psalm is the idea that this Psalm is designed to have as H.C. Leopold describes a,

“Lively liturgical pattern of rendition”.

 This means that Psalm 115 was used by ancient Hebrews in their worship services after the Passover and different parts were either sung or read by different members of the Hebrew congregation. Who sang or said what is now lost but Leopold suggests the following possible liturgical makeup he quotes from a man named Kittel,

  1. (vs’s 1 – 2) – Congregation (as a whole), 2. (vs’s 3 – 8) – Choir, 3. (vs’s 9 – 11) – Levites, 4. (vs’s 12 – 13) – Priests, 5. (vs’s 14 – 15) – Choir, 6. (vs’s 16 – 18) – Congregation (as a whole).

With the theme of the Lord alone deserves our praise and trust my outline for this Psalm talk is:

  1. (vs. 1)   PRAISE THE LORD ALONE
  1. (1a)   God alone deserves our praise
  2. (1b).  He deserves our praise alone because of his love
  1. (2 – 8) PRAISE THE LORD ALONE AND NOT ANY OTHER GOD ALTERNATIVE
  1. (2 – 3)  Where is you God?
  2. (4 – 8)  The uselessness of all alternative God views
  1. (9 – 15).    TRUST IN THE LORD ALONE
  1. (9 – 13)  All true believers trust in God
  2. (14 – 15) Trust in the Lord alone and be blessed by him
  1. (16 – 18) A FINAL CALL TO PRAISE THE LORD ALONE
  1. (vs. 16)   Why God alone deserves our praise
  2. (17 – 18)  While you’re alive you must praise the Lord
  3. (vs. 1)   PRAISE THE LORD ALONE
  1. (1a)   God alone deserves our praise

The Psalm starts with a very upfront statement that says,

“Not to us, Lord, not to us but your name be the glory”

 If Kittel’s liturgical pattern is correct the whole Hebrew congregation states clearly and strongly that they are not to receive glory but God alone deserves to be glorified. Even Jesus spoke of his purpose as to glorify his father in heaven in John 17: 1 – 4,

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

 “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do”.

 Paul spoke of our purpose is to bring glory to God and not ourselves in 1 Corinthians 10: 31,

“So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.

 Tremper Longman 111, says this about the opening words of this Psalm,

“The repetition of ‘not to us’ is for emphasis and signals just how hard it is for us to diminish our own accomplishments and give the praise to the one to who it belongs”.

 Two of the prophets, Ezekiel and Daniel who lived and wrote their prophecies during the time of the Babylonian captivity spoke strongly that the people of God where brought out of captivity in Egypt so that God’s name could be glorified, Ezekiel 20: 9,

“But for the sake of my name, I brought them out of Egypt. I did it to keep my name from being profaned in the eyes of the nations among whom they lived and in whose sight, I had revealed myself to the Israelites”.

And likewise, out of captivity in Babylon for the same reason, so that God can be glorified, Ezekiel 36: 21 – 23,

“I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.

 22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.”.

 And Daniel says something similar in prayer to God in Daniel 9: 18 – 19,

“Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

So, at the start of Psalm 115 the writer is getting the people to openly state in their worship of God, probably after the Passover celebration to declare that God alone deserves their praise,

We must learn from this and seek as much as we can to direct praise away from ourselves to God who alone deserves our praise as the minister at my church seeks to do by saying,

“Praise to the appropriate authority”

Who the opening of this Psalm says is,

“God’s name”

 Or as we have seen in previous Psalms God’s name means all that the God of the bible is which we will learn something of in the rest of this Psalm.

  1. (1b).  He deserves our praise alone because of his love

 So, the first and principle reason this Psalm says that the God of the bible deserves all praise alone is expressed in the second part of verse 1,

“Because of your love and faithfulness”

 I have read so many times of God’s love and faithfulness in so many of the Psalms I have studied and that is up to 115 now. The early Psalms that are particularly written by King David speak of the love and faithfulness of God over and over again, like Psalm 36: 5,

“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies”.

 David particularly knew that he was saved by God from both the consequences of his sins and his enemies because of God’s love and faithfulness as he clearly states in Psalm 57: 2 – 3,

“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me. 3 He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me— God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

 And relating to the terrible consequences of his sins of adultery and murder he prays this in Psalm 51: 1,

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions”.

 Why did David have such a view that the God of the bible, his God was such a great God of love and faithfulness?

The simple answer is he knew his bible and particularly when the bible speaks of how God decided to relate to his nation, Israel as we read in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

 Note how this love of God is called God’s,

“Covenant of love”

 A covenant is a binding agreement and God gives Israel his promise of his love which is binding or faithful in other words he must and will keep it.

When we Psalm 115 was written God had again demonstrated his love and faithfulness or promise to save and love his people by bringing the people out of bondage in the captivity in Babylon. The Jews themselves were powerless to save themselves out of the powerful hand of the Babylonians.

God had to act on their behalf and he did through the rise of the Persians who crushed the Babylonian empire so quickly and ruthlessly and then had the remarkable policy of sending former captive people back to the lands they originally came from and not only that resourcing them to rebuild their homelands again and practice their former faiths as well.

This I believe is what the writer of Psalm 115 has in mind when says,

“Because of your love and faithfulness”

 They are to give the Lord the glory he therefore deserves.

We too must do the same for even greater reasons as we know from the famous John 3: 16 verse,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

 God again acted miraculously in human history to love and save us from the consequences of our many sins. We like the Jews in Babylon cannot save ourselves and God alone has to do it for us as Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 2: 8,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

 God alone deserves our praise as he through The Lord Jesus Christ is the glorious God of love who Paul tells us we should praise and why in Ephesians 1: 3 – 10,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ”.

 During my study of this Psalm the Lord inspired me to write new song based on the teaching in this Psalm and I will quote from it when what it says summarises my thoughts on the different parts of this Psalm talk and the chorus of this new song relates to what I have learnt from the first verse of this Psalm and it goes like this:

Not for me but for the Lord

That’s the way it’s got to be.

Glorify the Lord up above

And praise him for his wondrous love. 

  1. (2 – 8) PRAISE THE LORD ALONE AND NOT ANY OTHER GOD ALTERNATIVE
  1. (2 – 3)  Where is you God?

 After the very up-front statement of the first verse that we believe the entire Hebrew congregation sang or said about how God alone deserves the glory and not us and therefore he alone deserves our praise the congregation then possess a question in verse 2 that says,

“Why do the nations say,

“Where is their God?”

 If this was written and first used in Jewish worship at the time of the return from Babylonian captivity then it is a very appropriate question to ask.

They had just spent at least 70 years as a captive nation in the many god’s, idol worship world of the Babylonians. The Jews had no physical representation of their one God as the second commandment of the ten commandments says in Exodus 20: 4 – 6,

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents tthe third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments”.

The pressure of not believing in the God of the bible would have continued back in Israel now also occupied by many non – Jewish people who also would have believed in many god’s and of course all these so called “gods” had some kind of physical representation of them that we call an idol. People might ask, so what’s so wrong with having a physical representation of God?

I see three main answers to this question:

  1. No matter what physical or earthly object or animal you choose you will not be able to capture the true essence of the God of the bible. For instance, you might choose an animal like a bull to say God is strong like a bull but a bull is also a dumb animal so you are also saying that the God of the bible is not only strong but dumb. This means you are selling short the reality of what the bible says about what the God who made heaven and earth is actually like.

2.  Once you set up a physical representation of the God of the bible the reality is this image becomes the object of what   you worship. I saw this on a trip through Europe years ago where the Roman Catholic church had statues of Mary and the crucified Christ everywhere and people bowed and worshipped the statues and I believe not what they supposed to represent. They kissed the statues, bowed before them and treated them as though that was the focus of their worship and not the God of the bible.

3.  The God of the bible is not a man with a physical body of any kind as the bible presents God as a spirit, as Jesus says in John 4: 24,

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

 Gotquestions? org explainsit this way,

The fact that God is spirit means that God the Father does not have a human body. God the Son came to earth in human form (John 1:1), but God the Father did not. Jesus is unique as Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Numbers 23:19emphasises God’s truthfulness by contrasting Him with mortal men: “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

 Another reason why the Nations around about the Jews asked the question “Where is your God is because they knew that they had been defeated by the Babylonians and were sent into captivity for 70 years or so and therefore they would have thought that because of this the supposed all powerful God of the Jews was either not really there or had deserted them and therefore they would ask,

“Where is your God?”

 The reason of course why the Jews went into captivity in Babylon was because their God, the God of the bible judged his people for their many sins particularly the sin of turning to other God’s who were represented by idols that the Jews even set up in the Temple that was supposed to point them and other people to the biblical reality that the God of the bible live in heaven but has chosen to make his presence known with his people who are called by him to trust and obey him and him alone as Jeremiah foretold in Jeremiah 25: 1 – 11,

“The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.

 So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: For twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day—the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.

 And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your ancestors for ever and ever.

 Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not arouse my anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.”

 “But you did not listen to me,” declares the Lord, “and you have aroused my anger with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.”

 Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”.

 This would have been known by the Nations but of course they would have been sceptical or even rejected this interpretation of why the Jews went into exile and why they were allowed to return from exile because of a lucky turn of events in that time that also luckily fitted into the supposed prophecies of men like Jeremiah.

I say this because even today when God answers Christians prayers sceptical non – believers often explain these events as just lucky turn of events that helped the Christian who happened to have prayed to their supposed God who answered their prayers.

If a person does not wont to believe in a God they will find all kinds of reasons and arguments to back them up. Some might say that this is the same with people who believe in a God that they will find all kinds of reasons and arguments to back them up.

All we, as believers can do is follow the advice of Peter when he says in 1 Peter 3: 15 – 16,

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

 The nations round about the Jews back in Israel after they spent 70 or so years in captivity have just asked in verse 2 the question,

“Where is their God”

 Then in verse 3 Kittel’s liturgical scheme of how the ancient Hebrews sang or said this Psalm says that a special choir would answer this question with,

“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him”

 This is the biblical answer to where is God, even today,

God lives in heaven where he controls and rules the universe and the world from as we read in Psalm 99: 1 – 3,

“The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. 2 Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. 3 Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy”.

 Or Psalm 93: 1 – 2,

“The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. 2 Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity”.

 I learnt this same truth from my study of Psalm 113 the same thing when he says in verses 4 – 5,

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. 5 Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high.”

 However the next verse says,

“Who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”

 So, the God of the bible is both a God who dwells and rules the world and the universe from heaven but chooses to stoop down to both speak to and help his people who are those who turn and trust in him as second half of this Psalm will tell us.

In my Psalm talk on Psalm 113 I spoke of how this stooping down of God was so far that he sent his Son into the world to become a human being like us and serve mankind not be served and to go as far as dying on the cross for our sins as Paul particularly sets down in Philippians 2: 6 – 8 but then in verses 9 – 11 this stooping down ceases and Jesus then rises up and ascends back from the dead into heaven from where one day he will stoop down again but this time as the great almighty God who will judge the world and be acknowledged by everyone as the great King or Lord of heaven and earth as he is, verses 9 – 11,

“Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

 Finally verse 3 says,

“He does whatever pleases him”

 Albert Barnes gives us a complete explanation to these words in verse 3 with this,

“He is a sovereign God; and mysterious as are his doings, and much as there seems to be occasion to ask the question “Where is now your God?” yet we are to feel that what has occurred has been in accordance with his eternal plans, and is to be submitted to as a part of his arrangements. It is, in fact, always a sufficient answer to the objections which are made to the government of God, as if he had forsaken his people in bringing affliction on them, and leaving them, apparently without interposition, to poverty, to persecution, and to tears, that he is “in the heavens;” that he rules there and everywhere; that he has his own eternal purposes; and that all things are ordered in accordance with his will. There must, therefore, be some good reason why events occur as they actually do”.

 The last part of the Albert Barnes quote reminds me of Paul’s words in Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

 The God who controls and rules heaven and earth might be a sovereign God who does whatever he pleases but his is also according to verse 1b is a God of,

“Love and faithfulness”

 Which means what he pleases to do, according to Paul in Romans 8: 28 is to work all things for good for those who trust in him but if we reject him we will have to face him in judgement as there is no salvation from the consequences of our sins without the shed blood of Christ, as Hebrews 9: 22 says,

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”.

 Then in verses 27 and 28 the writer to the Hebrews declares,

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him”.

 My first verse of my new song inspired by Psalm 115 summarises what I learnt from verses 2 and 3 of this Psalm,

Where is your God, they say

Who you pray to every day?

Our God is in heaven up above

And he cares for us with his love. 

  1. (4 – 8) The uselessness of all alternative God views

 According to Kittel’s liturgical structure of this Psalm the choir continues to sing the words of verse 4 to 8 which speak of the uselessness of idol worship which I will expand on to include any alternative God view that is not that of the God of the bible.

Why does the writer move on to speak about idol worship in verses 4 – 8?

The best answer for me to this important question came to me from The Cambridge Bible commentary for schools and colleges,

“The heathen taunt us with the impotence of our God? What are their own gods? Nothing but their own handiwork, destitute of ordinary human senses, though represented with organs of sense”.

 So, the writer is saying by implication, alright you say we have a God who is useless and powerless or as they say today does not exist,

Well what do you believe in?

In our writer’s day, the great God of the bible alternative view was usually some kind of god’s that were made of wood or stone. In Myanmar which I visited again recently the idols are usually big Buddha’s often made of gold or at least coated with gold but no matter how big or expensive looking they are might be they leave me feeling cold not inspired as they are useless religious structures that have no spiritual power or ability.

This is what verses 4 – 7 is actually saying,

“But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. 5 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. 6 They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. 7 They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats”.

 I love Isaiah’s sarcastic go at the futility of idol worship of idols made out of wood in Isaiah 44: 14 – 20,

“He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.

15 It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill.

He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!”

 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19  No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” 20 Such a feed on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

 Idol worship is condemned in a number of places in the bible, like other passages in Isaiah, 40: 18 – 20, 41: 7 and verse 29, 46: 5 – 7 and even Jeremiah has something to say about this in Jeremiah 10: 1 to 5.

Psalm 135 uses these verses directly in its verses 13 – 18, which also includes verse 8 of Psalm 115.

So, God through his word is making it clear that these idol god alternatives are useless and powerless and yet the implication of the question asked by the nations who believe in these idol God’s is that Israel’s God, the God of the bible is useless and powerless.

The final verses the choir sings here is verse 8 which says,

“Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them”.

 Leopold writes,

“Futility is the mark of the idols and futility marks their worshippers”.

 The story of Elijah challenging the priests of the idol worshipping god called Baal shows both the futility and powerlessness of idol worshippers and of course the value and power of believing in the one true God of heaven and earth, the God of the bible. The climax of that wonderful story is in 1 Kings 18: 36 – 39,

“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.

 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

 Even though idol worship still exists today in the Old Testament form of man fashioning idols as I have seen in places like Myanmar when I visit their other alternatives to the God of the bible is still applicable here.

Any god view that does not see God as the almighty spirit who dwells in heaven as lord supreme of this world and entire universe and who is both God to be feared and yet God who has stooped down particularly through the Lord Jesus Christ to save us is nothing more than a delusion.

When Paul was in Athens recorded in Acts 17 he saw the many idols their and reasoned that this was evidence that these people did not know God. All other non – God of the bible views of God are simply elaborate attempts by human beings seeking to know the unknown God and designing from their own minds and imaginations a view of God that is useless and futile.

So, Paul’s sermon to the top thinkers of the idol worshipping Athenians was to take them from an altar to an unknown God to the message of the God who has revealed himself in his Son, Jesus Christ and Paul says this about him in Acts 17: 24 – 31,

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’.

 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

 My new song inspired by the message of Psalm 115 summarises verses 4 – 8 with these words,

Turn form this worlds idol now

For they have no spiritual power.

They cannot help you when you’re down

They are useless when life causes you to frown.

  1. (9 – 15).    TRUST IN THE LORD ALONE
  1. (9 – 13)  All true believers trust in God

 Now two particular special groups of the ancient Hebrew congregation share the singing or saying of the next 5 verses according to Kittel’s liturgical pattern, with The Levites sinning or saying verses 9 – 11 and the priests singing or saying verses 12 – 13.

There is actually three main groups people mentioned here:

  1. The whole of the Nation of Israel (vs. 9, 12a)
  2. The religious leaders of Israel (vs. 10, 12b)
  3. All who fear the Lord, the God of the bible (vs. 11, 13)

These verses change from a call to praise to a call to trust in the Lord in whom they must praise alone. They feature a kind of refrain which contains two good reasons why they must trust in the Lord, the God of the bible and that is,

“He is their help and shield”.

 So, let’s have a closer look at these next five verses, first looking at the call to trust to the three groups of people.

  1. The whole nation of Israel (vs. 9 and 12a)

Verse 9 is a call to all of the members of the Israel to trust in the Lord and it reads this way,

“All you Israelites, trust in the Lord”

 Then in the first part of verse 12,

“The Lord remembers us and will bless us; He will bless his people Israel”.

 Israel was God’s special nation who he called to be his special people who were to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19: 5 – 6).

To be this God made a covenant with them that said that if they trusted in him alone and kept his commandments they would be blessed by him. This blessing involved protecting them from their enemies, giving them a Promised land and giving them the blessing of children and a prosperous nation.

These great promises lie at the heart what Psalm 115 is speaking about when it says that Israel should trust in the Lord alone and not obviously any other God alternative like the many idol gods of the Nations around about them.

Verse 12a speaks of how God remembers to bless his people which is God remembering his special covenantal promises and even the blessing of children is spoken of in verse 14,

“May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children”.

 The promise of God helping and protecting his people is in the refrain words of these verses that says simply,

“He is their help and shield”

 A shield was a very real poetic image for people of ancient times as shields helped soldiers fend off swords, spears and arrows that were used to attempt to kill them in battle.

As Christians, we have a far better covenant of God’s love as we live after the coming of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ who both fulfilled the original covenant and established are far better new covenant as the writer to the Hebrews sets out in Chapter 8 of his letter, as we read in Hebrews 8: 6,

“But in fact, the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises”

 My third verse of my new song inspired by this part of Psalm 115 summarises well what I understand these verses are saying,

So, trust in the Lord today

He will shield you when you pray.

He came from heaven up above

To help and save you by his love.

  1. The religious leaders of Israel (vs. 10, 12b)

The second people the writer of Psalm 115 picks out to call to trust in the Lord alone are the religious leaders of the Nation of Israel. These men are part of the whole nation of Israel but have been called to do a special job which was to lead and teach the people God’s word and lead them in worship of him.

The religious leaders on the Old Testament were the descendants of Aaron and this is why we read this in verse 10,

“House of Aaron trust in the Lord – he is their help and shield”.

 The descendants of Aaron became the priests assisted by the descendants of Levi who were loyal to Moses and God’s covenant in the incident of the false idol worship of the Golden calf recorded in Exodus 32 and became known as the Levites.

Allen Harmon points out the significance of the priests or the house of Aaron after the return from Babylonian captivity with these words,

“The involvement of the house of Aron is particularly fitting for the period after the exile, when the priests had to assume a very prominent role and were the principle teaches of the people”.

 As the prophet Malachi speaks of after the return from captivity in Babylon in Malachi 2: 7,

“For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth”.

 So, if the people of Israel are led by priests who trust in the Lord alone and do not turn to the worship of useless idols they will be both blessed and a blessing to the people of God as verse 12 says,

“The Lord remembers us and will bless us; He will bless his people Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron”.

 In the New Covenant, we read of Jesus being our priest who both represents us before God the father and who offers up himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins as we start to read of in Hebrews 8: 1 – 2,

“Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being”.

 And as the perfect sacrifice for our sins Hebrews 9: 11 – 14,

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

 In the New Covenant then Jesus is the high priest and Peter teaches that all followers of him are now priests or part of the kingdom of priests that proclaim the wonderful message of God to the world 1 Peter 2:  9 – 10,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy’.

 Our ministers in the church should not be called priests as some Christian churches still do but rather ministers or pastors of the flock which Paul set down in many of his letters to the churches. Our minsters or pastors have the special job of teaching and equipping the church or God’s flock to be priests or instruments of blessing to the world was Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4: 1 – 5,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”. 

  1. All who fear the Lord, the God of the bible (vs. 11, 13)

 The last group of people the writer of Psalm 115 calls to trust in the Lord alone are called simply,

“Those who fear him” (vs. 11 and 13)

 Of course, this description fits both the general people of Israel and of course the priests but it could also fit as a description of people outside of the nation of Israel in Old Testament times up to the coming of Christ who trusted or revered, feared the Lord of heaven and earth as presented in the bible.

The New Testament actually calls these people, “God fearers” as we see for instance in Acts 10: 2,

“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly”

 This is a description of a non-Jew named Cornelius a Roman centurion who Peter is called by God to bring to faith in the the Lord Jesus Christ with his whole household.

So even in the Old Testament people outside of the special nation of Israel were called upon to fear or revere the God of the bible and to trust in him, verse 11,

“You who fear him, trust in the Lord – he is their help and shield”.

 They too are promised to be blessed by God in verse 13,

“He will bless those who fear the Lord – small and great alike”.

 The words small and great alike could be in Old Testament terms the young and old alike or as Tremper Longman 111 says,

“God does not favour the powerful and rich over the disenfranchised and the poor, or vice versa, All may put their confidence in him”.

 My fourth verse of my new song based on Psalm 115 sums up what these verses have said to me:

The Lord will remember us

And all we have to do is trust.

He promises to bless us all our days

If we turn to him and give him praise.

  1. (14 – 15) Trust in the Lord alone and be blessed by him

 So, Kittel would suggest that these two verses, 14 and 15 would have been sung by the choir again and they speak to the three previous groups of people, the whole nation of Israel, the religious leaders and the non – Jew believers the writer of Psalm 115 call “you who fear him” which the New Testament calls “God fearers”.

What the choir sings about two forms of blessings for those who trust in the Lord alone:

  1. The blessing of the nation flourishing who trust in the Lord alone (vs. 14)
  2. The general blessing of all who trust in the Lord alone (vs. 15)

Let’s have a closer look at each of these two promises of blessings that the Hebrew choir now sing.

  1. The blessing of the nation flourishing who trust in the Lord alone (vs. 14)

This first promise of God’s blessing on the Nation of Israel would have been very apt for the Jews of the time of their return from exile in Babylon. They had by then suffered massive loss of lives when the Babylonian invaded Judah and then took a number of those who survived into exile. Many would have died in the harsh life of captivity and not all of them would have returned from exile as well.

The relatively small number of God fearing, God believing and God trusting Jews would have been tiny in number and we learn from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and the prophetic books of Zechariah and Malachi that the Jews were now living back in Israel with many non-Jewish non-God of the bible believing people.

So, the blessing of the Nation flourishing in just numbers again was crucial for the survival of God’s people, so we read of this promise in verse 14,

“May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children”.

 The promise of God’s people flourishing goes back as far as Abraham and is stated in the time of Moses in Deuteronomy 1: 11,

 “May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised!”

 In Old Testament terms the reality of families flourishing was a sign of God’s blessing on a community or nation as we read in Psalm 127: 3 – 5,

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a

warrior are children born in one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court”.

 In the New Testament, the concept of families flourishing is seen in how the book of Acts records a number of families coming to the Lord like we saw earlier in the case of the Roman centurion named Cornelius in Acts 10. Also, Paul had much to say to families and speaks of the obligations of Husbands, wives and children in a number of places.

However, it is the spiritual family that the New Testament has much to speak about, The New Israel of God that is made up of Jews and people of every nation of the world which Paul speaks about in Galatians 3: 26 – 29,

“So, in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

 Paul speaks in Galatians 4 of how God worked through the process of birth when Jesus came to earth born of a woman, Mary to be redeem us from our sins so that we could receive the gift of Sonship or being part of the blessed family of God, Galatians 4: 4 – 7,

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir”.

 So, all the promises of God made to Israel in the Old Testament are now applicable to Christians as we are no longer foreigners and strangers as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2 but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, Ephesians 2: 19 – 22,

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.

 So, when Psalm 115: 14 says:

“May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children”.

 Through what Christ has done for us we can apply this to ourselves, our human families and even more to the family of God which we belong to through faith or trust alone in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. The general blessing of all who trust in the Lord alone (vs. 15)

Then the choir sings of God’s general blessings to those who trust in God alone as verse 15 says,

“May you be blessed by the Lord the maker of heaven and earth”

 Spurgeon aptly writes,

“This is an omnipotent blessing, conveying to us all that an Almighty God can do, whether in heaven or on earth. This fullness is infinite, and the consolation which it brings is unfailing: he that made heaven and earth can give us all things while we dwell below, and bring us safely to his palace above. Happy are the people upon whom such a blessing rests; their portion is infinitely above that of those whose only hope lies in a piece of gilded wood, or an image of sculptured stone”.

Spurgeon is picking up the point that the wording of verse 15 might seem to be a very general blessing but it is a blessing that comes from,

“The Lord the maker of heaven and earth”

 Because he is the maker of heaven and earth he has unlimited resources and therefore his blessings are unlimited. Paul gives praise to all the blessings we have in Christ as part of being in the family of God in Ephesians 1 and says this in verses 3 – 10,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ”.

 Many years ago, two Mormon missionaries from America came to my door and wanted to come into my house to give me a blessing and I said, “No I did not need your blessing as I have all the blessings I could handle and more in Christ Jesus already” and I opened my bible and read this passage. They left my house shaking their heads and muttering with an American ascent, “and he doesn’t want our blessing”.

My fifth and final verse of my new song inspired by the words of this Psalm sums up what I learnt from these verses in the Psalm:

May the Lord bless our families

As we come to him on our knees.

Praise the Lord who made heaven and earth

For his transformed us by spiritual re-birth.

  1. (16 – 18) A FINAL CALL TO PRAISE THE LORD ALONE
  1. (vs. 16)   Why God alone deserves our praise

 According to Kittel’s liturgical plan for this Psalm the final two verse were sung or said by the entire ancient Hebrew congregation. They represent a final call to praise the Lord alone and verse 16 makes it clear why we should do so,

“The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind”.

 The writer of Psalm 115 has made it clear that idol gods’ have no power or worth so we should not trust in them or give them praise but The Lord, the God of the bible is according to verse 15,

“The maker of heaven and earth

And now in verse 16 the heaven and earth belong to him and so he alone deserves our trust and praise.

Then verse 16 gives us another reason to praise God alone and that is because he has given to us the earth. This idea comes directly from the first book of the bible Genesis, in Genesis 1: 26 – 28,

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female, he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Mankind was given the earth to rule over it but because of sin or rebellion to God the earth now is cursed and we struggle and toil to subdue it and work in it as we read in Genesis 3: 17 – 19,

“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust, you are and to dust you will return.”

However, God has still given the earth to mankind and this should cause us to do two things

  1. Praise God for all he has given us in this world and this life.
  2. Seek to look after what he has given us in this world and this life.

Paul speaks of creation groaning in Romans 8: 18 – 21 as it to awaits its release from our sin and its consequences,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”

Paul goes on to say that because we, even as God’s children groan as well because we still live in a fallen world. But we groan with a great hope and with great support from God’s Holy Spirit who helps us as we groan or struggle at times in this fallen world, Romans 8: 22 – 27,

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God”.

So, we have much to praise God for as he who we trust in and who blesses us even in our struggles in this world as we seek to live for him.

  1. (17 – 18)  While you’re alive you must praise the Lord

So, the Psalm ends with what seems a strange final call to praise in verses 17 – 18,,

“It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to the place of silence; 18  it is we who extol the Lord, both now and forevermore. Praise the Lord”.

 It was Albert Barnes who best explained the real meaning of these final two verses to me with this,

“The dead praise not the Lord – The meaning of this is, that as those who are dead cannot praise God, or cannot worship him, this should be done while we are in the land of the living. This opportunity, like all other opportunities, will be cut off in the grave, and hence, we should be faithful in this duty, and should avail ourselves of this privilege, while life lasts”.

Some say that this Psalm was written after a battle where dead soldiers were real in the minds of the people but I don’t think this is necessary to understand while the writer of Psalm 115 chose to speak about the living praising God and as the dead cannot praise the Lord.

However, from a New Testament point of view the dead in Christ are with the Lord and there they join the angels in praise forevermore as we read in Revelation 19: 4 – 8,

“The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!” Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

The point of this final call to praise the Lord alone is expressed in verse 18,

“It is we who extol the Lord both now and forevermore”.

 The first question of the famous Westminster Catechism is:

What is the chief end of man?”

 And the answer is:

 “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.

 Our lives as well as our worship of our Lord should be in an attitude of praise as Paul makes it clear in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

 We have learnt in this Psalm that there are many reasons why we should praise and trust God alone and so it is only fitting that the final words of this Psalm is,

“Praise the Lord”

 Or as it is in the ancient Hebrew language:

“Hallelujah”.

 I Close this Psalm talk with the full set of words for the new song I composed based on and inspired by this Psalm and what it taught me and then I will close the Psalm talk with a prayer.

NOT FOR ME BUT FOR THE LORD (Based on Psalm 115)

 Chorus:

Not for me but for the Lord

That’s the way it’s got to be

Glorify the Lord up above

And praise him for his wondrous love.

 

Where is your God they say

Who you pray to every day

Our God is in heaven up above

And he cares for us with his love.

 

Chorus:

 

Turn from this worlds idol now

For they have no spiritual power

They cannot help you when you’re down

They are useless when life causes you to frown.

 

Chorus:

 

So, trust in the Lord to day

He will shield you when you pray

He came from heaven up above

To help and save us by his love.

 

Chorus:

 

The Lord will remember us

And all we have to do is trust.

He promises us to bless us all our days

If we turn to him and give him praise.

 

Chorus:

 

May the Lord bless our families

As we come to him on our knees.

Praise to the Lord who made heaven and earth

For his transformed us by spiritual re- birth.

 

Chorus:

 

Not for me but for the Lord

That’s the way it’s got to be

Glorify the Lord up above

And praise for his wondrous love.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 I praise you Lord above because you are such a great and loving God and I know this because you sent Jesus into our world to die for me so that my sins could be forgiven and through that I have become a member of your eternal family. I recognise that you alone deserve all praise and glory and I reject any alternative to you and your word and I seek to trust you and you alone. I know from your word that if I trust you your promise is to help and protect me. I thank and praise you Lord for your many blessings and I ask that you will help me to always trust in you alone as you are the Lord and creator of the universe who loves me even though I don’t deserve this love. In the glorious name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen.

PSALM 114 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GOD LEADS HIS PEOPLE OUT OF BONDAGE BY HIS POWERFUL PRESENCE

PSALM 114 TALK:  HALLELUJAH – GOD LEADS HIS PEOPLE OUT OF BONDAGE BY HIS

                                                                      POWERFUL PRESENCE

 (This Psalm is part of a series of Psalms that are called The Hallelujah Songs and this Psalm is one of two, 113 and 114, that were said or sung before the Jewish Passover Festival and the two following, 115 and 116 were said and sung after the passover festival. This Psalm does not contain the Jewish word “Hallelujah” but it is a word of praise that features how God intervened in history with his special powerful presence to lead his people out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promised land of Israel).

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

 In January 1936, a school girl named Phyllis wrote a short letter to Albert Einstein, who is probably one of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century. Phyllis asked Einstein “Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?

Albert Einstein’s reply is as follows,

Dear Phyllis, 

 I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

 Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore, a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

 However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science. 

 But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive. 

 With cordial greetings, 

 your A. Einstein

Einstein is said to have had what is called a Deist view of God and this has been explained to me by a woman named Catherine Giordano who wrote an article in June 2017 entitled, “What was Einstein’s Religion? Deist? Pantheist? Humanist? Atheist? she writes quoting Albert Einstein first and then explaining what he is saying,

“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

 Spinoza’s god was a deist god, a “God of Nature,” a “Prime Mover,” who set the universe in motion, but then no longer concerned Himself with it. Einstein often speaks of a “cosmic religion”—he describes himself as religious because he is in awe of the universe and the spirit that he perceives to have created it and is imbued in it”.

 The Deist view of God is very popular today and so too is the Atheist view which is to argue that there is no God and that all we see and know and even don’t know about the life and the universe came about by a miraculous accident of evolution.

Psalm 114 speaks directly against these two false views of God as Psalm 114 presents clearly that God is there and that he has concerned himself with the fates and actions of human beings because he got involved in human history and led his special people, Israel out of their bondage in Egypt and successfully into his promised land for them known originally as Canaan but became known as Israel.

God achieved this by using his great and almighty power to do things like divide the waters of a sea so his people could cross, made a mountain tremble and smoke as he came close to it, made water come out of a rock to provide water for his people in a desert and stopped the waters of the river Jordan so his people could cross to go into his promised land and conquer it.

Allan Harmon sums up what this Psalm has to say and how it was composed by saying,

“This Psalm uses vivid poetic images to show how the creator used the forces of nature to achieve his purposes”.

 Psalm 114 and 113 are said to be part of the “Hallelujah Songs”  (Psalms 111 – 118) and also part of the Egyptian Hallel Psalms (113 – 116) used as part of the Passover celebrations and 114 and 113 have been sung by Jews for centuries before the Passover meal and 115 and 116 sung after the Passover meal.

Psalm 114 does not contain the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” but it is still a praise of the Hebrew God who is called “Yahweh” particularly when he used Moses to lead his people, Israel out of Egypt and up to the Promised land and then under the leadership of Joshua into the Promised Land.

Psalm 114 tells us very clearly that God is there and he is, has been and will be involved in our world. As Christians, we will see what I call parallels between the Jewish Passover, God leading his people out of slavery in Egypt and into his presence in his Promised land in Israel and The Lord Jesus Christ through the Easter message leading us out of the slavery of sin and into his presence ultimately into his eternal dwelling place called heaven.

Leopold quotes Martin Luther’s application of this Psalm with these words,

“We on our part sing this psalm daily to praise Christ, who leads us out of death and sin, through the midst of the raging’s of the world, the flesh, and the devil into life eternal”.

 It is not a coincidence that Jesus died for our sins on the cross at the time of the Jewish Passover celebrations as his death and resurrection is God’s direct involvement in human history like the original Passover to lead those who put their trust in his son and what he has done for them out of the slavery of sin and into his eternal presence which is heaven for all true believers.

We do not know when this Psalm was first written although the special reference to Judah becoming God’s sanctuary places its composition after Israel became divided into two Kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. However, we know that this Psalm was placed in the fifth and final book of Psalms after the return from exile. The Psalm would have spoken to the Jews of that time on a number of levels.

Similar to God leading his people out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt they had recently saw how God acting through actual history of their times and led them out of cruel captivity in Babylon and back into the Promised Land of Israel.

The Psalm would also had given the Jews of the post Babylonian exile hope and more reasons for faith as they struggled back in Israel to re-establish their Land and Jerusalem their holy capitol. It was not an easy time for the post Babylonian captives in Israel as they faced the hardship of local non – Jewish opposition and a land and city of Jerusalem totally smashed and destroyed by the Babylonian invasion but their God is high and mighty and is described in verse 7 this way,

“Tremble earth, at the presence of the Lord at the presence of the God of Jacob”.

 With the theme of Praise the God (Hallelujah) who leads his people out of bondage of slavery by his powerful presence my outline for this Psalm follows the simple four, two verse structure of this Psalm:

  1. (1 – 2)      OUT OF EGYPT AND INTO GOD’S PRESENCE
  1. (vs. 1) Out of Egypt’s bondage
  2. (vs. 2) Into God’s Presence
  1. (3 – 4). GOD’S PRESENCE MADE THE SEA AND RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS

                         LEAP

  1. (vs. 3) God’s presence made the sea and river flee
  2. (vs. 4). God’s presence made the mountains leap
  1. (5 – 6) WHY DID THE SEA, RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS LEAP?
  1. (vs. 5) Why did the sea and river flee?
  2. (vs. 6). Why did the mountains leap?
  1. (6 – 7) GOD’S PRESENCE IS POWERFUL
  1. (vs. 7) God’s presence makes the earth tremble
  2. (vs. 8) God’s presence is powerful and provides his people’s needs
  1. (1 – 2)      OUT OF EGYPT AND INTO GOD’S PRESENCE
  1. (vs. 1) Out of Egypt’s bondage

 This Psalm considered to be part of the “Hallelujah Songs” neither starts with “Hallelujah” or finishes with it yet it vibrates with reasons for praise all through it.

It starts with the words,

“When Israel went out of Egypt.”

 Spurgeon aptly writes,

“The song begins with a burst, as if the poetic fury could not be restrained, but overleaped all bounds. The soul elevated and filled with: a sense of divine glory cannot wait to fashion a preface, but springs at once into the middle of its theme”.

 Israel could only come out of that bondage of that all-powerful super power of its day because a far greater super power enabled it to. Allan Harmon points out that the expression,

“Out of Egypt”

 “Was almost a standard expression”

 He then gives us six times we find this expression in the early books of the bible, four in Deuteronomy, 4: 45 – 46 / 22: 4 / 24: 9 and 25: 17 and two in the book of Joshua, 2: 10 and 5: 45.

The infant nation of Israel called here Jacob, as Jacob who became Israel was this nations founder was called out of Egypt a nation much larger and greater who the Israelites found spoke a,

“foreign tongue”

 This implies that the Egyptian language was unintelligible to the people of Israel and God had to work a small miracle for their future leader Moses to be brought up in Egyptian culture and language so that Moses in his later life could converse with Pharaoh to ask him to let his people go and when he did not comply tell him what God would do to his land and eventually to his family.

I recently returned from Myanmar where many different languages are spoken and know first-hand the difficulties one has when trying to communicate to people who don’t speak your language and you don’t speak theirs.

One day I got dropped off in a local market near where I was staying and when I tried to catch a bus back to my hotel I could not find anyone who could speak English and I ended up getting in a taxi and went the opposite way to my hotel. Once I realised I was lost and could not communicate to the taxi driver I prayed to God for help.

Soon after I prayed the taxi driver stopped at a taxi stand in a small town and got out and spoke with some other taxi drivers. I had an iPad picture of my Hotel and one of the other taxi drivers put the name of the hotel in his phone and through the help of google maps he took me back to my hotel safely still unable to speak to me I thanked him but he probably didn’t even know I was thanking him such is the problem of not speaking the local language.

I thought after my 2 hour trip that should have only taken 15 minutes if I was going the right way that as Christians Peter tells us we are living as foreigners and exiles in this world, 1 Peter 2: 11 and therefore, spiritually we are not thinking and at times speaking the same as the general population who don’t know the Lord and his word and therefore like I felt in that taxi in Myanmar, lost and frustrated by my inability to communicate, so I often we feel the same when living for the Lord in this spiritually foreign or alien world that is speaking, spiritually a foreign language.

Peters advice of how we should live in this fallen Godless world is the next verse, 1 Peter 2: 12,

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”.

 So, God’s people needed God’s power intervening for them to be able to come out of the land of slavery called Egypt in which they lived as aliens and strangers not even able to communicate to them because they spoke a different language and believed in a different view of God, so unlike the multi God views of their Egyptian slave masters.

As I said in my introduction the Passover is linked with the work of Christ’s salvation through his death on the cross which is the central message of Easter celebrated at the same time as the Jews celebrate Passover.

All the New Testament writers saw the significance of Christ death for our sins on the cross and how that act of the power and love of God in real time history freed us from what Paul calls the law of sin and death, he speaks powerfully of this in Romans 8: 1 – 4,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”.

 So, I will remind you again of how Martin Luther saw how this Psalm relates to the Christian,

“We on our part sing this psalm daily to praise Christ, who leads us out of death and sin, through the midst of the raging’s of the world, the flesh, and the devil into life eternal”.

  1. (vs. 2) Into God’s Presence

 Where did God lead them to when he brought his people out of Egypt the land of bondage and slavery?

The answer to that question is contained in verse 2,

“Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion”.

 Alan Harmon points out that this Psalm,

“Gives a very condensed account and telescopes events together that happened many years apart”.

 Here in verse 2 we have an excellent example of this as this verse speaks of not only the Exodus but the conquest of Canaan and the setting up of the sanctuary in Jerusalem all in the simple verse of,

“Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion”.

 The place God led his people to when he leads them out of the bondage or slavery of Egypt was ultimately the promised land of Israel which the verse calls,

“His dominion”

 But more than that it looks forward from coming out of Egypt to the conquest of the land of Canaan to become Israel and then setting up of God’s sanctuary in Jerusalem given to the tribe of Judah, with the words,

“Judah became God’s sanctuary”

 God gave Moses the law on Mount Sinai and in giving this law he set up with Israel a covenant of love which he told Moses to explain to the people this way in Exodus 19: 4 – 6,

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

 The nation of Israel living in the land of Israel will be a nation of priests as God will dwell with them in a special way on earth. In Jerusalem in Israel which is part of the tribe of Judah was a special place called “The Sanctuary” later to become “The Temple” and from there God will tell them and the world his word as there he dwelt or is present with his people. We know from many other bible verses that from Jerusalem God will send out his message of love and salvation to the world, as we read in passages like Isaiah 2: 2 – 3,

“In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.

He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”.

 Again, it is not just a coincidence that Jesus died and rose and ascended in Jerusalem and he sent his disciples out from Jerusalem with the saving Gospel message to the world. In Acts 1: 8 Jesus gives his disciples this charge,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Note how the power to fulfil this great charge does not come from themselves but from the indwelling of God’s special presence in the person of the Holy Spirit in his disciple.

In AD 70 God worked through the Roman invasion of Jerusalem to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem to never be built again.

Paul taught even before AD 70 that we are now God’s Temple the Church and we are all kind of mini Temples or places of God’s special dwellings moving out and living in all the world, 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies”. 

  1. (3 – 4). GOD’S PRESENCE MADE THE SEA AND RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS

                         LEAP

  1. (vs. 3) God’s presence made the sea and river flee

 The book of Exodus speaks of God going before his people in power and might this is again condensed in this Psalm as Allan Harmon says,

“Telescoped events together that happened many years apart”.

 The Psalmist also uses the poetic devise of personifying inanimate objects in nature that God caused to do miraculous things through in order to save his people and lead them out of Egypt and into the land of Israel. Sea, river, mountains are spoken of as though they are living people with legs to run away and leap like rams.

In verse three the writer personifies the red sea and the river Jordan and writes,

“The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back”

 The book of Exodus makes it clear that God’s presence went before his people day and night as he led them out of Egypt as we read in Exodus 13: 21 – 22,

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people”.

 So, verse 3 of Psalm 114 now speaks of the first great specific intervention of God the Creator of the Universe getting involved in this world and changing the natural laws that govern our universe to bring about salvation for his people.

This miraculous event is the parting of the red sea that is described poetically in Psalm 114 verse 3a as,

“The sea looked and fled”

 The Exodus account speaks of this miracle this way in Exodus 14: 15 – 16,

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground”.

 Moses of course raised his staff and that staff, I believe represented the very presence of the God of the universe and the sea obeyed his command and parted. If the sea was a person, the Psalmist says it got up and ran away from the presence of God.

I will always remember the first time i saw the movie, The Ten Commandments and that amazing scene in the movie when Charlton Heston, a very convincing Moses, stands on a large rock at the edge of a sea and raises his staff and the sea divides in half and the Israelites walk through the gap in the sea to the other side.

I was around 17 or 18 and had backslidden from the Lord and was in a car with someone my non- Christian mates at a drive-in theatre. My mates had fallen asleep as we had come to the drive-in theatre straight from the beach that day and we were all very tied. Somehow, I was wide awake and yelling out to my mates, “wake up, wake up you have got to see this, it is amazing”.

Even as a backslidden Christian I was caused to think thoughts of wonder that  if this actually happened what a powerful God the God of the bible must be. Of course, modern scholars even so called Christian ones argue this is a made-up story and that archaeology and modern reason says this is nothing more than a fairy-tale. Yet Israel still exists today and their history is one of a series of amazing so called powerful fairy tales that has helped preserve what has always been humanly speaking a tiny insignificant nation.

Like the Atheist view that everything came out of nothing by accident the only reasonable explanation for Israel a tiny nation that came form so called nowhere is that God interviewed in human history and made and saved this people so that through them he could send his Son to save people from every nation on earth from the consequences of their sins.

 Then verse 3 says,

“The Jordan turned back”

 Again, an inanimate object, the river Jordan is personified and given a body that now is said to have turned back. The miracle of the blocking of the waters of the Jordan obviously upstream from where the people of Israel crossed happened not in the quiet and peaceful time of the rivers cycle but at a time of floods as Joshua 3: 14 – 16 says,

“So, when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So, the people crossed over opposite Jericho”.

 Note the perfect timing of this miracle as it was as the priests carrying the ark of the covenant feet touched the water’s edge the river stopped flowing. The Ark of the Covenant is a symbol of the presence of the Lord so the river in verse 2b of Psalm 114 turned back or stopped flowing in the presence of the Lord of the universe.

Many miracles in the bible could be explained by natural phenomenon but even if God used natural phenomena to perform the miracle it is still a miracle because of the timing as the river turned back or stopped flowing when the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped on the edge of the river.

Modern thinkers, like even Albert Epstein do not believe the laws of nature can be changed so that miracles can happen but I argue that why can’t the one who invented and set in place those laws of nature not alter or change them if he so desires to do so.

It would seem that God generally works through the laws of nature he has set in place but sometimes God does intervene in this world and our lives to perform what we call a miracle. I know personally many people who have been told by doctors that nothing humanly speaking can be done for them when they were very sick or badly injured but in some cases the doctors have said all you can do now is pray.

Pray they did and it turned out that God does intervene sometimes to save and heal people even the doctors had to admit that their recovery could only be explained by a miracle of God.

I saw this in the case of a young man named Vince who mocked his brother Peter years ago for being a Christian when I attended a youth fellowship group Peter was part of.

Vince was smashed up in a terrible car accident in which his young fiancé was tragically killed. Vince’s right leg was so badly broken the doctors gave him no chance of keeping it but his brother Peter and our young fellowship group prayed for a miracle.

Vince’s leg was in plaster and within 3 months his leg healed up as though it was only basic brake and this led Vince to the Lord and he became a strong and committed follower of the Lord.

Sceptical non-believers will say this is impossible but we must remember the words of our Lord when he said in Luke 18: 27,

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

 So, I say to the sceptical unbeliever to have faith in God and take up the challenge David gives us in Psalm 34: 8a,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good”. 

  1. (vs. 4). God’s presence made the mountains leap

 Then this personification of inanimate objects continues with mountains leaping in verse 4,

“The mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs”.

 I like part of Spurgeon’s explanation of this verse,

“Men fear the mountains, but the mountains tremble before the Lord. Sheep and lambs move lightly in the meadows; but the hills, which we are wont to call eternal, were as readily made to move as the most active creatures”.

 Verse 4 is an obvious poetic reference to the coming of the Lord of the universe on Mount Sinai recorded in Exodus 19: 16 – 19,

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him”.

 The description here says that when the God of the universe descended on the mountain it not only was covered in smoke and fire but it, “Trembled” meaning it shook violently and this is what the writer calls the mountain, leaping like a ram or a sheep. I have seen on my occasional trips to the country sheep leaping and for the people of bible times this would have been a powerful poetic image.

God is presented here as being so powerful that seemingly immovable objects like mountains just tremble or leap around in the presence of the Lord.

This again fly’s in the face of the Deist who says that God is distant and not involved in our world now. God is active and alive in this world as Psalm 95: 3 – 5 declares,

“For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. 4  In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5  The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land”.

 God is mighty and powerful in creation and in upholding the earth and the entire universe and so is the mighty in salvation as Psalm 96: 1 – 6 declares,

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples. 4  For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 6 Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary”.

We as Christians proclaim a great message that can and has changed this world and it does this by influencing and changing the individuals in this world who accept the Gospel meagre of Jesus Christ and turn to him as Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 2: 14 – 17,

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God”.

 The leaping of the mountains, those seemingly immovable objects of nature remind me of the story of the lame bigger who asks Peter for money and Peter heals through the power and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at one of the Temple gates and we read this in Acts 3: 6 – 10,

“Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him”.

 Sceptics again might say this simply does not happen today but remember my true story of Vince who God healed his right leg miraculously and he was a modern example of how faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can heal us and cause us to leap or jump in praise of our Lord who is active in our world with power and love.

  1. (5 – 6) WHY DID THE SEA, RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS LEAP
  1. (vs. 5) Why did the sea and river flee?

 The writer of Psalm 114 then uses another poetic device namely three rhetorical questions. A rhetorical question is a question with an obvious answer and the first of these three rhetorical questions is in verse 5a.

“Why was it, sea that you fled?”

 Note how the writer continues the personification of the innominate object of the sea and speaks directly to the sea asking why it fled from the presence of the Lord.

The obvious answer from the context of the Psalm is that it fled or in reality parted because the Lord of the Universe is so powerful that when he wants something to happen no human or earthly power can stand in his way.

Psalm 93 presents the idea that sometimes nature or this world is like us in rebellion to God so it says in verse 3,

“The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their funding waves”.

 This verse could be a poetic image of the mighty Babylonian nation lifting up its power to challenge Israel and its God and in fact the seas lifting up here could be translated the flood waters lifting up and raging across the dry land of Israel in destruction and devastation.

However, verse 4 of Psalm 93 proclaims,

“Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea – the Lord on high is mighty”.

 Yes, the Babylonians conquered Judah as an act of God’s judgment on his sinful disobedient people but God is mightier than the Babylonians as 70 years after they took the people of God into captivity he raised up and even mightier nation called the Persians and they overran and destroyed the Babylonians and allowed and encouraged the people of God, the Jews to return to the Promised land of Israel.

So, God has power even over the chaos of the universe represented many times in the bible by the sea or the ocean and Jesus showed he had power over the sea when he stood up one day on a turbulent stormy sea of Lake Galilee and said to the storm and the sea, “Be Quiet” and immediately the sea or lake was calm, Mark 4: 36 – 41.

Even hardened and experienced fisherman like Peter and his fisherman fellow disciples knew what Jesus did was simply amazing as we read their reaction to what Jesus was able to do in verse 41,

“They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

 So, the obvious answer to the question in verse 5a of,

“Why was it, sea that you fled?”

 Is because God told the sea to part and the sea obeyed the word of the powerful creator God and parted or as it says in the poetic image, “you fled”.

Likewise, the answer to the rhetorical question in verse 5b of,

“Why, Jordan did you turn back?”

 This same, God told the river to stop running or for the rocks to fall that caused a temporary blockage of the river Jordan and it obeyed him.

The answer to these rhetorical questions also points to the power of the word of God as it was by his powerful word that the world was created, as we read in Genesis one a number of times the words,

“And God said”

 And immediately different things were created.

So, powerful is the word of God that the writer to the Hebrews describes it this way in Hebrews 4: 12,

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.

 We can trust in the wonderful powerful word of God as through it God has a purpose that cannot be thwarted as Isaiah proclaims in Isaiah 55: 11,

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”.

 So, the powerful word of God parted the red sea and stopped the river Jordan flowing and on Galilee Jesus word to the storm calmed it immediately and his word primarily found in the message of the Gospel transforms lives through faith in him as Paul declares in Romans 10: 17,

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ”.

 So as Paul calls us in the previous verses in Romans 10 to preach and teach the Gospel message we to can see the power of God’s word if we follow his advice and proclaim it.

  1. (vs. 6). Why did the mountains leap?

 The final rhetorical question concerns the power and might of God seen on Mount Sinai when God descended down to speak to Moses and give him his word wrapped up then in the law of God.

The rhetorical question of verse 6 goes like this,

“Why, mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs”.

 Again, the obvious answer is because the Lord of the universe came close and spoke his word and when God is close and speaks, wonderful things happen.

This is spoken about all through the bible, that God is not the remote distant God of the Deist like Albert Einstein believed in. No God is involved in this world and has descended down to it as the previous Psalm stated in verse’s 5 and 6,

“Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth”.

 In my last Psalm talk I spoke of the present day popular atheist Richard Dawkins who stated in a debate that.

“Christians believe that the so-called creator of the vast and limitless universe could not think of a better way to deal with the problem of sin than to descend to this small spec of cosmic dust called earth to be tortured and executed so that he could forgive himself.

 Dawkins says this is:

 “profoundly unscientific and does not give justice to the grandeur of the universe and is petty and small minded”.

 What Dawkins sees as petty and small minded is seen by those who believe it as what God has done which is both amazing and wonderful. Dawkins is hitting at the heart of the Christian belief and attempting to deride and ridicule it but what he does not realise is that what he is ridiculing is in fact the message that saves and transforms the lives of those who believe in it.

God did come down with his holy and powerful presence on Mount Sinai and make that mountain and the mountains surrounding it tremble or as it is expressed poetically in Psalm 114, leap like rams and sheep.

Equally and in a greater way God did come down to this cosmic speak of dust we call earth in the person of his Son to save us from our sins as the famous verse, John 3: 16 declares,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

 This is not small minded and petty but is both mind blowing and amazing and deserves our praise that we should express is service as Paul declares in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

 I pointed out earlier in this Psalm talk that this Psalm along with the one before it was said or sung at the times of the Passover celebration. The Passover was celebrated to help the Jewish people remember what God did to save the Nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.

As Christians, we are reminded every Easter of the death and resurrection of Jesus that the Passover story is only a shadow of. The Jews were saved from the bondage and slavery of Egypt but through Christ death on the cross we are saved from the bondage and slavery of sin.

However, Jesus does not want us to remember his death on the cross just at Easter but he instituted on the night he was betrayed a perpetual remembrance service of his death for us which we call today, “The Lord’s Supper”.

Paul gives us a summary of how Jesus wants us to remember his act of powerful salvation for us on the cross in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26,

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

 So, God descended on Mount Sinai and the mountains trembled and when Jesus descends to earth the second time not only will mountains tremble but the whole earth will tremble at the coming of the Lord and we read of mountains being removed or changed and the sky and heavens being changed as well. Revelation 6: 12 – 14,

“I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

 In Revelation 6: 15 – 17 we read of how some influential people will seek to hide in mountain caves when the Lord returns. But Revelation 6: 15 – 17 tells us how no one will be able to hide from this coming of the Lord in great power and might,

 15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us[a] from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

  1. (6 – 7) GOD’S PRESENCE IS POWERFUL
  1. (vs. 7) God’s presence makes the earth tremble

 Some see verse 7 as the key to the whole message of Psalm 114 but I see it as the natural follow on to what we have just been reading of in the previous verses. Three rhetorical questions have just been asked why nature acted in a different and miraculous way in God leading his people out of their slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land of Israel and the obvious answer is because the Lord of the Universe had come down and was near and spoke his powerful word and so verse 7 says,

“Tremble earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob”.

 This is the climax of what the Psalm has been saying that God’s presence with his people caused miraculous things to happen.

The red sea acted abnormally to help save his people out of slavery. The river Jordan had its water flow stopped and before that Mount Sinai shook and trembled as God’s presence came near to it. So, the writer of Psalm 114 calls the whole earth to,

“Tremble earth, at the presence of the Lord”.

 The Cambridge Bible commentary for schools and colleges nails down clearly what the author of Psalm 114 is seeking to say here with these words,

“It was at Jehovah’s presence that earth trembled then; but instead of a formal answer the poet’s words take a wider range, and he bids earth tremble still at the presence of its Lord, who proves His sovereignty by transforming its most stubborn elements for the benefit of His people”.

 Deist believers like Albert Einstein cannot see how nature can be changed by the God who made it as their view of God is limited by only what they see day after day in their scientific study, that this universe runs on strict laws that seem immovable.

However, we know from the Bible and the history of God’s dealings with his special people Israel that the God who invented and installed the laws of nature can and has altered them to intervene for the purposes of salvation and this is even more startling in the case of the coming of the Lord in the person of Jesus Christ.

He came via virgin birth a change of the laws of biology, he came to be both God and man, a change in the makeup of a normal human being and he was able to perform miracles which represent changes in the laws of nature to do things only the force or person who created those laws could achieve.

C.S. Lewis argued in the 1930” is that there are only three alternatives to who Jesus actually was. Jesus claimed to be God in a number of places in the Gospels, like  John 10: 30,

“I and the Father are one”.

 This verse comes from a passage were Jesus points to his miracles as proof that he is God and his promised Messiah, John 10: 22 – 30

“Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand”. 30 “I and the Father are one”.

 So, C.S Lewis says that Jesus claim to be God gives us only three alternatives and they are either Jesus is a Liar, Lunatic or The Lord.

Jesus teaching and actions discount the first two alternatives, Lair or Lunatic so the fact that Jesus could perform miracles, deeds that change the normal laws of nature point to Jesus being The Lord. The reaction of the Jews who heard Jesus make the claim of,

“I and the Father are one”

 Tells us they knew Jesus was claiming to be God in the flesh as we see from verses 31 – 33,

Again, his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

 33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

 This claim of Jesus being God led to his death on the cross and that might have been the end of the Jesus story but three days after his death another truly remarkable miracle occurs as Jesus rose from the dead which is a change from the normal law of nature that says once you’re dead your dead.

So, returning to our verse 7 of Psalm 114 the New Testament says that Jesus will cause all mankind to tremble or revere him as the Lord when he returns as Paul declares in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

 The final part of verse 7 of Psalm 114 says that this trembling before the Lord is in the presence of,

“The God of Jacob”

 I have given a lot of thought in the past to how the Psalms interchange the name of the Jews from Israel to Jacob and of course Israel and Jacob are the same person. One of Abraham’s grandson’s is Jacob whose name means “supplanted” as he was a rebellious character who sought to pull down the birth right of his twin brother Esau and eventually in his later years he has a special encounter with God and after wrestling with God’s Angel gets an injury to his hip and is given a new name, Israel.

We read this story in Genesis 32 and we read the vital part of this story in verses 24 – 30,

So, Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

So, I believe the name Jacob indicates more the humanity of God’s people, their weakness to sin and not go God’s way and so here in Psalm 114,

“The God of Jacob”

 This is the God of the fallen yet chosen people who God turned in Israel which is literally means, “In whom God prevails” and so we tremble or fall down in worship before the God who has saved us from the slavery of sin through his Son Jesus Christ who one day will return and then all mankind and creation will fall down in worship before him.

As we read about in the book of Revelation like chapter 11: 15 – 18,

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. 18  The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” 

  1. (vs. 8)  God’s presence is powerful and provides his people’s needs

 This God of Jacob is not some kind of vague and remote force as the Deist like Albert Einstein believe in but is a God who is deeply involved in his chosen people helping them again sometimes in a miraculous way as the last verse of the Psalm suggests, verse 8,

“Who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water”.

 It seems God performed this miracle of providing water in a waterless place like a desert twice for his people, the descendants of Jacob when he led them out of slavery in Egypt. The first  was early in their wanderings in the desert areas in Exodus 17 and then later in their wanderings when they should have been ready to enter the promised land in Numbers 20.

Both times the Israelites sinned and failed to trust in their God who they had seen was able to perform great miracles for them like divided the red sea to create a path for them to safely cross and make a mountain smoke, fire and tremble when their God came close to Mount Sinai.

He had even provided miraculous food for them yet the people grumbled and lacked faith when water became dangerously low. They even suggested to Moses and through him God that they were actually better off in Egypt as slaves where they had food and water, probably in short supply but they had it.

Even after all this God still performed the miracle of turning a rock into water such is the love and faithfulness of their God. Of course, this continued disobedience and lack of faith on the part of this wilderness generation who also did not believe God could help them conquer the land of Canaan led God to not let them enter his Promised Land and it was their children and two older men, Joshua and Caleb who trusted in God who entered the promised land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

The New Testament tells us in many places that this same God of Jacob or Israel is a God who provides what we need now through the Lord Jesus Christ who through his death and resurrection has called people from every nation on earth to now be his chosen people.

The apostle Paul uses the story of this rebellious wilderness generation and even the incident of the rock into water as a warning to us as Christians in 1 Corinthians 10: 1 – 6,

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did”.

 We have a God who through Christ as Paul says, is our spiritual rock who provides all we need and more as Jesus promises in Matthew 6: 33 -34,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

 God provides all we need and more and I love how the closing words of Jude, 24 – 25 puts it,

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”.

 The “him” these verses refer to is of course The Lord Jesus Christ who we tremble before or worship because he is our Lord who we can turn to in prayer at any time and know that he will intervene in our daily lives to save and help us always.

CONCLUSION

 I started this Psalm talk with the little girl’s letter to Albert Einstein in 1936, the little girl named Phyllis asked the great man,

‘Do Scientist pray”

Albert Einstein gave what I called a Deist view of God answer,

“Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore, a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish”.

 Which becomes clearer in the next thing he wrote to the little girl,

“But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.”

 The some naive are of course Christians who believe God does intervene in human life and history and answers prayer.

Psalm 114 has shown us that the bible clearly presents a God who is real, powerful and willing and able to get involved in the lives of his people, those who have turned to his Son in faith as Jesus told his disciples on the night before his death for our sins in John 14: 11 – 14,

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”.

 The scientist who is a Christian and there are many of them would have given Phyllis a different answer and their answer would have gone something like this,

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the God of the bible who usually works through the laws of nature but sometimes he works outside of those his laws of nature to bring about his saving purposes.

 This God sent his Son Jesus Christ to this so called insignificant spec of cosmic dust to die for our sins on the cross.

 Faith in God’s Son brings to us the miracle of God’s forgiveness which opens up a way back to this creator supreme God who we are learning more about through our study of science and his word daily.

 So, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ I pray and he answers me sometimes intervening in my day to day life to provide his help and provisions as he promises he will in many parts of his word the bible”.

 I close as usual with an original poem and a prayer:

OUT OF SLAVERY WE NOW COME

(Based on Psalm 114)

 Out of Egypt God called his flock

Out of slavery they came

To be his special nation

To proclaim his wonderful name.

 

Out of Sin we now come

Through the cross we are given

The gift of God’s forgiveness

That leads us now to heaven.

 

Chorus:

 

Hallelujah God sent his only Son

Who died for our sins

So out of slavery we could come.

 

God divided the sea for them

So, his people could walk free.

Stopped the water of the Jordan

Now the Promised land they could see.

 

God gave his Son out of Love

To die on the cross for us

Given us a place in heaven

And all we have to do is trust.

 

Chorus:

 

Hallelujah God sent his only Son

Who died for our sins

So out of slavery we could come.

 

Tremble before the Lord above

For he has demonstrated his power

By making the mountains leap with fear

As his presence came in power.

 

Turn to Christ our rock and hope

Who is God’s eternal Son.

Who provides our every need

As out of slavery we now come.

 

Chorus:

 

Hallelujah God sent his only Son

Who died for our sins

So out of slavery we could come.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

 

PRAYER:

 I thank you Father in heaven for how you sent your Son to die for our sins on the cross. We now have been freed from the slavery of our sin so that we can now serve you Lord and one day be with you in heaven. Help us to always tremble before you in worship and praise as we realise who you really are and what by love you have done for us. May we worship you in sacrificial service knowing that you promise to provide our every need and answer our every prayer. In Jesus Name, we pray Amen.